Reviews /

Cinder & Ella

Authored by Barbara Slade
Illustrated by Lucia Soto
Published by Owlet Press

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Cinder & Ella is an inspiring reimagining of the traditional Cinderella tale. As in the original, kind, clever, and beautiful Cinder lives a life of drudgery. Her mean stepmother makes life a misery and in the first twist, her lazy stepbrothers add to her woes. Her dreams are not of marrying a handsome prince but of a girl with long brown hair and eyes the colour of the sea who just so happens to be a princess. When Ella’s parents announce that they are throwing a ball to find her a suitable husband, Ella is unable to eat or sleep but cannot understand why. It all becomes clear, when, with a little help from a horse called Midnight, Cinder makes it to the ball, and their hearts are filled with joy. Will they get their happy ever after? Without giving too much away, let’s just say that the story follows the expected pattern.

This is a fresh retelling of one of the best-known and loved traditional tales. The vibrant illustrations bring the story to life. Colour is used boldly and with dazzling effect making this a feast for the eye. Lucia Soto captures the emotions of the characters with subtlety. She makes the stepmother look sly without turning her into a pantomime villain and shows the sorrow and confusion on the faces of Princess Ell and her parents with delicacy. Barbara Slade’s text is in keeping with the style of a traditional tale and she doesn’t put a foot wrong. It is a well-paced story, although perhaps the ending is a tiny bit rushed.

Books that challenge gender stereotypes are so important to have in schools and Cinder & Ella is a book that deserves its place within any class or home library. I would add this to our traditional tales collection in Key Stage One without hesitation as it is a high-quality picturebook with an important message which is subtly told.