When I found Cinderhazel in between dozens of Second Hand Picture books I wasn’t sure I should buy it. However, I found it would do nicely for our July/August Fractured Fairy Tale theme. Before I head to my review, this is my first time (its usually Myra who gets to write on Tuesday) joining Book Talk Tuesday hosted by Kelly Butcher from Lemme Library.
The story of Cinderella is one of the more popular of tales. I remember growing up associating Cinderella with blond hair, blue ball gown and a glass slipper. I imagined pumpkins and mice turning to coaches and horses respectively. I can even hear the Bibbidi-bobbidi-Boo.
I considered Disney’s version of the tale as the true plot of this popular princess fairy tale. Yet, truthfully speaking the popular Cinderella story is already a fractured fairy tale of the Grimm brothers’ darker version of the tale.
However, the original is lost to obscurity (or censored from children) and we find ourselves with fractured tales of the more sanitized version of Cinderella. Cinderhazel is just one of the many variations to this tale. We’ve seen it told as a true story in Drew Barrymore’s Ever After or as a Chinese Princess. While most of these versions lean towards the serious with some social commentary on the portrayal of helpless females, CinderHazel leans towards the outrageous, the crazy and the silly.
There are no Princesses here
Lattimore’s Cinderella is a witch and while her step sisters (also witches) look down on her she finds pride in being called Cinderhazel.
You are disgusting! Absolutely yucky!…All you think about is dirt. For all the time you spend in that fireplace, we ought to call you CinderHazel. Ooooh, would you? Asked Cinderhazel.
Cinderhazel’s reply is very much different from the original, for Lattimore’s heroine loves her dirt and her filth so much more than being in a ball.
Oh! Who cares? Muttered CinderHazel. “Who wants to dance with some hoity-toity prince anyway?”
But where else can the plot progress if CinderHazel has such loathing for Princes and Balls? The story however keeps to the original with a witchy godmother telling CinderHazel that Prince Alarming is the King of Dirt and his castle has 18 dirty fire places. What’s a dirt-lover got to do?
Nothing is usual in Lattimore’s version of Cinderella. There are no beautiful gowns or coaches. Witchy outfits and flying canister vacuums take center stage. There are no beautiful balls and charming princes only Halloween dances and Prince Alarming.
There’s nothing typical about it
Cinderella’s entrance takes everyone’s breath away as seen in Drew Barrymore’s Ever After and all the other beautiful girls make a sudden ball entrance. Cinderhazel does the same by literally taking everyone’s breath away with dust as she comes falling down from the chimney. Moreover, there was no prince to watch from the throne, but a lump of dirt peeping from the corner. When they do meet, there were no flying hearts or sparkling stars as seen in this exchange:
“You know, I came here tonight because I was told not to.” said Cinderhazel. And she rubbed her nose with the hem of her skirt. The Prince thought for a moment. “I would ask you to stick around.” He said, “But I’m not sure there’s enough dirt for two of us.”
Lattimore’s atypical version of Cinderella however stops in character choice, for in the end Cinderhazel and Prince Alarming lived filthily ever after.
Cinderhazel isn’t the book for parents to teach children of cleanliness and obedience. Not really. However, it’s a nice way to add some silly elements into the story. Rather than looking at the obvious, I find that Lattimore’s story of this crazy little witch offers a wonderful discussion on beauty, on fun and seeing the goodness in things. If anything, it celebrates a certain amount of individuality. Cinderhazel isn’t a push over, she doesn’t cry in the corner, she decides and acts. She is herself and that is enough.
Lattimore’s illustration is consistent with her dirty prince and witch. The backdrop feels like moss and dirt oozing with witch goo – all this is filled with movement and expression. While not necessarily pretty, it fits perfectly to the theme and story of the book.
There are degrees to how fractured a fairy tale is. An author can change the perspective, can change the background of characters or bring in more reality into a story. Presenting a sundry of versions to children, I believe, presents a rich opportunity for discussion and analysis.
Deborah Nourse Lattimore began writing and illustrating books for young and zesty readers when she was in the 6th grade at Beverly Hills California. She studied writing for young people with Sue Alexander and illustration with Diane Goode. When an editor from HarperCollins liked her work and offered a contract, Deborah was so excited she accidentally burned a chicken in the oven. She loves creating picture books that take young readers on amazing journeys back through time to ancient and mysterious cultures.