Asia – Indonesia
Sierra, Judy. 2000. The gift
of the crocodile: A Cinderella story. Illustrated by Reynold Ruffins. New York:
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥ (out of ♥♥♥♥♥). (Cover photograph taken from Amazon.com).
Summary: This is an Indonesian version of Cinderella. By being kind to “all wild creatures,” Damura
helps bring about her union with the prince (unpaged). When her stepmother and stepsister throw Damura to crocodiles after
her marriage, the prince pleads her case with Grandmother Crocodile, and the reunited couple lives a happy life together.
Type: wonder tale
Characters: The characters
are all one dimensional, and readers are clear who is good and who is evil. However, Cinderella realizes that she “traded
her happiness for a doll,” which is more insight than folktale heroines usually show (unpaged).
Setting: Sierra conveys the setting and time frame in the opening sentence: “In the Spice Islands, where clove
and nutmeg trees grow, a girl named Damura lived long ago” (unpaged).
Plot: In many ways,
this is a basic Cinderella plot. The audience is presented with a motherless girl; a mean, tricky stepmother and stepsister;
and Cinderella (Damura) acting as a servant. After a few pages, the father is totally out of the picture. Cinderella receives
help from a magical being (Grandmother Crocodile) and is rewarded for her respect and kindness to wild creatures. At the ball,
she loses a “golden slipper,” and the prince finds and weds her despite her ragged clothes. The plot twist is
that Cinderella’s despair does not end once she is married. Her stepmother and stepsister feed her to crocodiles, and
she must be spit out by a “fat” crocodile and brought back to life before she can live happily ever after.
Themes: As in many Cinderella tales, the dominant theme seems to be that goodness will eventually be rewarded.
A secondary theme is that one should be kind to all wild creatures.
Rating Considerations: This is an outstanding Cinderella variant. The well-paced writing flows nicely, the
plot has an unexpected twist, and the illustrations are magnificent.
Illustrations: The “Primitive” illustrations remind one of Henri Rousseau and Grandma
Moses. “Ruffins' handsome acrylic paintings reflect the Indonesian love of color and pattern”(Susan Hepler, SLJ, 2000). The illustrations feature lush colors such as green and purple as well
as authentic vegetation and wildlife. Ruffins varies his perspective from close-ups to distant views of the village and royal
court. On several text pages, the artist includes interesting silhouettes that
help readers make predictions.