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Central/South America - Caribbean

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Caribbean – West Indian (French Creole tale from Martinique)


San Souci, Robert D. 1998. Cendrillon. Illustrated by Brian Pinkney. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.


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


Summary: This Caribbean Cinderella variant is told from the Godmother’s perspective. The story is traditional with Cinderella receiving help from a human godmother who owns a wand that performs short-term magic.


Type: wonder tale 


Characters:  The characters are one-dimensional, with Cedrillon being a good, kind girl who wants the prince to love her on her own merit. The Godmother, a washerwoman who was orphaned in childhood, addresses readers like a personal friend, and readers feel that they know her.


Setting:  San Souci establishes the setting and time in the first two sentences, when he says, “I (the Godmother) live on a green-green island in the so-blue Mer des Antilles, the Caribbean Sea. Long ago, when I was a child…” (unpaged).  San Souci liberally sprinkles French and French Creole words throughout the text, giving the audience a feel for the culture. In several illustrations, Pinkney depicts a small tropical island surrounded by a vast blue ocean.


Plot:  This traditional Cinderella tale contains no plot surprises. However, this variant seems fresher than many because the Godmother tells the story. Also, when Paul is fitting the shoe and the Godmother takes Cinderella out of her rags, Cinderella says, “No, Godmother dear…No more spells” (unpaged).  Cinderella wants Paul to love her for herself, a feature readers do not see in all variants.


Themes:  The main themes are that goodness (Cedrillon) and love (the Godmother) will eventually prevail. A secondary theme is that true love means our loved one finds us desirable in “rags.”


Rating Considerations:   San Souci writes with melodic, authentic language.  He seems to capture the rhythm and dialect of the French West Indies. Pinkney’s trademark scratchboard illustrations are effective but grow tiresome by the story’s end.


Illustrations: I am not a big fan of Pinkney’s scratchboard technique, so it is difficult for me to be objective when evaluating the illustrations. Pinkney’s palate is gorgeous, with a liberal use of vibrant, tropical colors such as aqua, lavender, green, and red.  Many of the illustrations are surrounded by attractive tree and flower borders. In several paintings, Pinkney conveys motion with sweeping, horizontal lines. Pinkney also seems to integrate realistic details related to landscape, vegetation, and animals. My biggest objection to the art is that I tire of it by the time Paul is fitting the shoe.