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North America - Native American

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North America – Native American – Ojibwa


San Souci, Robert D. 1994. Sootface: An Ojibwa Cinderella story.  Illustrated by Daniel San Souci. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers.


Rating: ♥♥♥♥ (out of ♥♥♥♥♥). (Picture taken from


Summary: Sootface, who is treated badly by her two older sisters, finds a husband by releasing her inner beauty and trusting her gift of seeing beyond the visible.


Type: This is a wonder tale. The warrior had the power to make himself invisible and to carry a rainbow-bow strung with “white fire, like the Milky Way” (unpaged).


Characters: The characters are one-dimensional. The two older sisters are “pretty enough” and mean (unpaged).  The father is mostly absent. Sootface is good and kind but is afraid of her sisters; she waits on them like a servant. However, Sootface grows stronger and more determined in the story, and she continues on her quest for a husband despite being laughed at by her sisters and neighbors. The warrior’s sister is kind and dutiful. The warrior is handsome, kind, and more concerned with inner than outer beauty.


Setting: Robert San Souci establishes the setting in his opening sentence. The story takes place long ago (“once”) in an Ojibwa village surrounded by a lake and birch forest. From the author’s notes, one learns that this is “primarily a tale of the Northeast and Great Lakes tribes” (San Souci, CIP page).


Plot: This is a basic Cinderella plot with many twists. The mean sisters are real sisters, and no mother figure is present. Sootface is not “pretty” on the outside. From her hard work by an open fire, she has burns on her face and stringy hair.  Sootface does not lose a slipper or other object.  The prince is a warrior who has made himself invisible through spiritual practices. Rather than use her outer beauty to win the warrior, Sootface uses her inner beauty which later becomes outer beauty. 


Themes: One theme is that if a person wants something enough, he/she should seek it persistently, regardless of what others say or do. Another theme is that inner beauty is often the most valuable type of beauty.


Rating Considerations:  Robert San Souci’s writing is good but lacks the spark that makes writing excellent.  Daniel San Souci’s realistic illustrations are strong and match the text well, but they lack the “otherworldly” aura that accompanies so many Cinderella tales.


Illustrations: Daniel San Souci’s earth-toned, realistic paintings are well-researched and attractive. San Souci presents accurate details in clothing, hair styles, lifestyle, nature, and border patterns. In an author/illustrator note, readers learn that “The illustrations are based on extensive research at the Anthropology Library of the University of California at Berkeley. Details…reflect mid-eighteenth-century Ojibwa village life” (San Souci, CIP page). Reviewer Carolyn Phelan writes, “The watercolor artwork illustrates the story with quiet grace” (Booklist, 1994).