Saturday, February 15, 2014

Reading: Cinders - A Chicken Cinderella

Courtesy of
Every time I hold a children's book written by Jan Brett in my hands, I feel like I am grasping onto a piece of art.  I was first introduced to these colorful dream worlds when I was a first grader, and my teacher shared The Mitten with my classmates and me.  Recently, I led my students in an author study of Jan Brett, and we learned that she feels that she is a stronger artist than writer and that writing is very difficult for her; in fact, she writes with a timer on her desk to keep her focused!  While it's undeniable that Jan's illustrations are captivating, the stories that she writes are wonderful, too.  In her most recent book, Jan Brett re-imagines the classic fairy tale  Cinderella and presents her to the readers in the form of one of her favorite animals: a chicken!  Talk about a story!  In the last Cinderella book review I wrote, I was disappointed in what I felt was an absence of story.  In Cinders: A Chicken Cinderella, I am delighted by the rich characters, the engrossing story, and the new spin on a beloved fairy tale!  With memories of my grandpa sitting in a lawn chair tossing handfuls of seeds to his chickens in the barnyard, I might be partial to these feathered creatures myself, but I feel that Jan Brett does them justice by portraying them as royal, majestic, and beautiful animals.

Chickens at my grandpa's farm 
Cinders begins when young Tasha delivers handfuls of oats to the chickens in her father's barn.  Largessa, the hen, and her chicks, Pecky and Bossy, are quite domineering feasters and push Cinders away from the delicious fare.  So, Tasha scoops up the young hen in her lap and feeds her handfuls of oats herself.  After Tasha falls asleep near the warm stove, Largessa retrieves an invitation to a ball hosted by Prince Cockerel, in which he will be looking for his princess!  (Since Tasha has just fallen asleep, I almost wonder if the author is illustrating the young dreams of the imaginative girl.  Either that, or chickens are rather sneaky creatures when humans are not around! )  From that moment on, Pecky and Bossy order Cinders around to scrub their toes and trim their tail feathers!  When Cinders gets left behind while the other chickens attend the ball, a beautiful, fluffy Silkie hen appears and promises to make Cinders' dream of attending the ball come true!  During the ball, Silkie goes to the palace and peeks in through the windows.  Suddenly, the doors of the palace literally open with pull-out pages revealing what is happening at the ball:  Cinders and the prince enjoy one another's company as they gracefully burn up the dance floor, the other chickens looking on in admiration and curiosity - until the ice clock chimes twelve, of course!  That's when Cinders has to make a get-away and loses her crystal slippers in the shuffle.  A search for the special chicken ensues, and in the end of the story, Tasha's father opens the barn door with a surprise - a handsome cockerel!  

I enjoyed reading this story, partly because of the neat characters, the fresh spin on an old story, and the enchanting artwork!  So many things occurred on each page as evident by the lively illustrations with the neatest details - chickens printed on the door handles of the palaces, chickens dressed in Russian clothing, a beautiful winter scene with the brightest whites and most royal blues I have ever seen, framed settings (the chicken barn, the forest, the inner palace)!  The Silkie Hen is a beauty with her royal purple ribbon and fluffy tail feathers, and Cinders looks astounding in her glowing ball gown!  Jan Brett included chickens of all shapes, sizes, and colors, and the final embrace between the prince and new princess chicken is a sweet ending to an enjoyable story - like the cherry on top of a hot-fudge sundae!  Using chickens in this Cinderella story as opposed to people makes the fairy tale even more magical, and the love that buds between the clucking birdies is believable to anyone peeking inside the palace windows with Silkie.  I also admire how Tasha befriends and cares for her father's chickens!  On a personal note, she is "a girl after my own heart!" 

According to Jan Brett, this story was inspired when she actually witnessed chickens being selfish!  There are not a lot fiction stories that do showcase chickens as beautiful animals, and I think it's time that these lovely birds receive their due!  Cinders does a great job representing the chicken kingdom and retelling a classic fairy tale in a fun manner that children will enjoy.  For more information about Cinders, visit Jan Brett's helpful and interesting blog post! 

1 comment:

  1. I love Jan Brett and I have never seen this book! I must pick it up now.