15 January 2013

Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson

Cinder Edna tells the tale of the girl living next door to Cinderella. Like Cinderella, she also is forced to work for her mean and demanding step-mother and two step-sisters. However, Cinder Edna has very different responses to her situation.  With hard work and practicality, she takes matters into her own capable hands when the ball comes along, choosing, for example, to simply take the bus to the ball instead of relying on a fairy godmother. At the ball, she meets the prince's brother, who is far more interesting to talk to than the crown prince. When the clock strikes midnight, Cinder Edna realizes she must catch the last bus, and in her haste leaves behind one of her shoes- a practical brown loafer.  Her prince comes to find her, not by trying the loafer on all the girls of the kingdom, but by asking all the Ednas in the kingdom a question only his Edna can answer. While the crown prince and Cinderella go on to lead rather dull royal lives, Edna and her prince live happily ever after working hard (together) and sharing their favorite jokes.

Although I see the point the author of Cinder Edna is trying to make, I did feel this story does somewhat of an injustice to the original Cinderella story by repainting her character as wimpy and dull. While the Cinderella in this book does indeed compare as very shallow, the original tale presents a girl up against much more difficult odds than Cinder Edna has to face, while still maintaining a sweetness of heart. As such, this book would probably be most appropriate for a child familiar with the original, and old enough to understand the differences in the setting of the story,  the humor in the contrasting Edna, and the over-all message.

The over-all message is well worth understanding. Rather than sit in the cinders and feel sorry for herself Edna takes matters into her own capable hands and makes the best of her circumstances.  The story points out elements of Edna's character, and ultimately those character points are what bring her and her "prince" together and keep them happily married in the end. Furthermore, the book's message counters the implied message of much of the princess craze of today by demonstrating that happiness is not found in the princess scene (i.e. riches and handsome guy.)

Lastly, I appreciated this book for finally addressing a particularly mystifying story-line flaw in the typical Cinderella tale: WHY didn't the Prince ever ASK Cinderella her name?!?