Friday, February 4, 2011

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Intellectualize 'Em

Like so many moms I know, I am working hard to keep my daughter from being eaten by Cinderella. I've been lucky in that most of her friends (read: the children of my friends) are not too doped up on Disney or predisposed to princess worship. Nonetheless, bits and pieces of pink puffs and sequins have seeped their way into my daughter's psyche and I can see how easily it could snowball into something beyond my tolerance threshold if I didn't keep it in check.

So what do I do? I do the same thing I do whenever there's any problem I need to address: I go to the library.

I really, really love the library. And I'm particularly lucky that our neighborhood branch has the most delightful, engaging and caring children's librarian I have ever known. (I am wracking my brain, yet cannot remember a single librarian from my own childhood. Meanwhile, my daughter makes gifts for Miss Elizabeth and talks about her as if she's a personal friend.)

Each time we visit the library, I check out yet another version of Cinderella. We started with the most familiar storyline in Cinderella by Hilary Knight. Fifi loved the story and loved acting it out. She, of course, was really big on the switch from rags to a beautiful princessy dress. Fine.
I didn't really have a good picture for this
post. But here's Fifi in a crown.

The next week, we read The Gospel Cinderella by Joyce Carol Thomas, wherein a young girl is reunited with her long-lost mother through their shared love of singing. Next up was The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin. Amongst Native Americans, only the Cinderella character can see the Invisible Being because of the goodness in her heart. Most recently, we read The Irish Cinderlad by Shirley Climo, featuring a boy (you read that right!) who transforms from lowly stepbrother into hero worthy of the princess' love.

Each time we approach a new story (and Fifi can't wait to tear into them), I remind my daughter that it's another version of the Cinderella story. We stop along the way as parallels become obvious and she giddily identifies the Fairy Godmother character in this version or the glass slipper symbol in that version. The tale is no longer about the wretched girl finding a man who gives her life meaning and makes her seem beautiful. Now, it's about reading, really reading: making connections as a way of deeply understanding.

I will admit, Fifi has yet to impersonate Cinderlad in her make-believe play or beg me to help her make a pair of Rough-Face moccasins.  But at the same time, it's been a while since she's asked Vance to be the prince who saves her and makes her beautiful in the end.


  1. When do you find time to sleep? You are a busy, busy woman.

  2. Cinderella is big here too. Another story to consider is a Creole tale called The Talking Eggs. Definitely Cinderella-esque but with nary a Prince to be found.

    Liz (yes, that Liz)