Books DiverseKidLit Middle Eastern Literature Picture Books Reading Themes

[DiverseKidLit] A Middle Eastern Cinderella in “The Golden Sandal”

Myra here.

Our theme for this #DiverseKidLit is books in a series. Series books are great for hooking readers, because there’s another book after you finish the first one! Share your favorite book series featuring diverse characters. (As always, the theme is only a suggestion. Diverse posts on alternate topics are always welcome.)

What Is #DiverseKidLit?

Diverse Children’s Books is a book-sharing meme designed to promote the reading and writing of children’s books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds.

We encourage everyone who shares to support this blogging community by visiting and leaving comments for at least three others. Please also consider following the hosts on at least one of their social media outlets. Spread the word using #diversekidlit and/or adding our button to your site and your diverse posts.


We hope this community serves as a resource for parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, and authors! Our next linkup will be Saturday, August 5th. We will only be hosting one linkup per month (on the first Saturday) for the summer months.

Upcoming Themes

Our theme for the current month is books in a series. Series books are great for hooking readers, because there’s another book after you finish the first one! Themes are a suggestion only; all diverse book posts are welcome. If you’re interested, you can start planning now …

  • Our theme for August (5th) will be socioeconomic diversity. What are your favorite books for honoring characters and families who come from somewhere other than the 1% or even the upper/middle classes? We look forward to seeing your choices!

Most Clicked Post from Last Time

The most-clicked post from the previous #diversekidlit was this incredible resource from Colours to Us: 50 Picture Books about Mixed-Race Families. Wow!

When I was trying to find picturebooks that would fit our reading theme from our Singapore libraries a few weeks back, I was delighted to accidentally see this one in the fairytale/folktales section. Since I am a huge fan of retellings and different versions of well-loved tales, I thought that this Middle Eastern Cinderella story would be a good addition to our Myriad of Middle Eastern Literature until today.

The Golden Sandal: A Middle Eastern Cinderella Story

Written by: Rebecca Hickox Illustrated by: Will Hillenbrand
Published by: Holiday House, 1998. ISBN: 0823415139 (ISBN13: 9780823415137)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me. 

The setting of this Cinderella story is in Iraq. The Author’s Note found at the end of the book indicated that Rebecca Hickox discovered this story from Inea Bushnaq’s Arab Folktales originally called “The Little Red Fish and the Clog of Gold.”

The story has practically all the elements found in the Cinderella story most are familiar with, except for some details. For one, the father was a fisherman who did not really want to marry their neighbour. It was her daughter, Maha, who insisted that he remarries so that he does not have to mend his own clothes or cook his own meals.

Predictably, the stepmother and Maha’s stepsister turned out to be evil and made her do all the house work. However, instead of a fairy godmother, it was a magical creature who helped out Maha during her time of need:

It reminded me a fair bit of folktales coming from the Philippines whereby the hapless hero rescues a creature even more in need, and was rewarded for their kindness. The same thing happened to Maha who, magically, was able to attend a “bride’s henna” (not a ball, no), thanks to this magical red fish:

I will have to say that I was truly impressed with the art – I am not sure how authentic it is, but the illustrator’s note found at the end of the book did indicate that much of the source materials came from a book by Bernard Lewis entitled The World of Islam: Faith, People, Culture.

Generally, I felt comforted after reading the story – the familiar elements of bad people getting their comeuppance, and good triumphing over evil has that effect on any reader, regardless of which culture they come from. Definitely a book that could be explored with young readers, especially as adults could help scaffold parallels and divergences from other versions of the same tale.

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

1 comment on “[DiverseKidLit] A Middle Eastern Cinderella in “The Golden Sandal”

  1. Pingback: The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece – Gathering Books

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