Book Talk Tuesday: Cinderella meets Halloween: Cinderhazel by Deborah Nourse Lattimore

Iphigene here.

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.”

Prince Alarming

Lattimore’s atypical version of Cinderella however stops in character choice, for in the end Cinderhazel and Prince Alarming lived filthily ever after.

Final Thoughts

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.

Picture Book Reading Challenge Update: 86 of 120

8 Comments on Book Talk Tuesday: Cinderella meets Halloween: Cinderhazel by Deborah Nourse Lattimore

  1. Wow. There are a lot of fractured fairy tales out there, and this one certainly seems unique! Love the name of “Prince Alarming.” Too funny!

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    • Hi Kerry,
      Yup. I think of all of us here in GB I’m the least familiar with picture books, but its amazing to discover all these versions to the popular fairy tales. And yes, the name Prince Alarming is funny and his complete name is something like Prince Filthy Alarming. Thanks for dropping by. 🙂

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  2. Dear Iphigene, with the Classical name, (and Myra, too), What a great review you gave me! Thank you so very much! I don’t often get the chance to work on totally silly, slapstick stories; it’s much more usual for me to write and illustrate about something ancient or at least several hundred years old. I love ancient history and I also have a deep and abiding devotion to Things Silly. When I originally worked on “Cinderhazel”, it was a direct response to a talk given by an editor who was addressing a small group of writers and illustrators up the California coast. As I listened to her, I became aware of how annoyed I’d been, for years, at Cinderella, for being passive, for always washing things and singing at the same time, for being shoved around in her own house. Every time my grandmother read Cinderella to me, I wanted to know as if she ever did anything productive and at her own instigation, such as change the locks on the front door the instant her stepsisters left the house for the Prince’s Ball. It was, I believe, HER home first, was it not? But, no. Cinderella sits in the courtyard and weeps. I did feel sorry for her but I also wanted her to jump up and protest, or better yet, get a lawyer. (I’m originally from Beverly Hills and real estate there is at a premium.) The editor above-mentioned also told everyone that books with a single word for the title often sold well on book club lists at school book fairs. So, I thought about Cinderella, then I thought about a witch and I liked the name Hazel, and putting them together, voila! Cinderhazel! And the rendition I did is also about myself as a kid who loved to sit inside the fireplace and observe the rest of the family. I was quite often messy, yes, every dirty, because I loved playing in the dirt in the back yard.
    I rode the family vacuum cleaner about the house. And the fireplaces seen in the picture where Cinderhazel flies through the air, headed for the biggest one, is a view of Hancock Park, where I
    raised my own children.
    Now that I’ve found your blog, I’ll be reading it as often as I am able. I wish you many great reading adventures and many happy summer days, too!
    Deborah Nourse Lattimore

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    • Hi!
      First, I’m happy that you found this review and took the time to comment. Thank you. Also, thanks for sharing that wonderful background story to this book. As a reader, it always intrigues me on how an author comes up with their book ideas. And now I know why this book was called so. It is indeed a silly, yet wonderful rendition of the story.
      Hopefully we get to feature you and your work again in some near future.

      -iphigene

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  3. This is a pretty fun theme! My boys might appreciate this version of Cinderella better than the “original” one.

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    • Hi!
      Lori. Yes, I think its a funnier version of Cinderella that boys would enjoy. I think it has enough amounts of dirt and gross that appeals to young boys. Thanks for dropping by.

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  4. I’ve also thought of the Disney version as the real deal. I’ll check out the Grimm’s version. 🙂 Love this grittier and dirtier version of Cinderella. Cinderhazel reminds me of Witch Hazel in Looney Tunes, in a Hansel and Gretel retelling episode. She’s one of my favorite nemesis for Bugs. 😛

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    • Hi Tin,
      The original version is very medieval and involves cutting toes. I included a hyperlink (Grimm Brother’s Darker version) that will direct you to the Brothers Grimm version. Oh…i barely remember witch hazel. Will check that out.
      One of the things i hope to do is re-read the fairy tales as it is told by the original writers namely, Andersen and the Grimm brothers. thanks for sharing your thought tin.

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3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

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