Cinderella Liberator

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Cinderella Liberator Book Poster Image
Fresh take on classic tale boosts being true, free self.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids can compare this version of the story with the traditional Cinderella fairy tale. And Author's Note explains how the basic Cinderella story appears in many different cultures, with many variations.

Positive Messages

"True magic is to help each thing become its best and most free self." Just being beautiful will not make you happy. "There are a lot of people with a lot of ideas about beauty. And love. When you love someone a lot, they just look like love." "There is always enough for everyone, if you share properly , or oif is has been shared properly before you get there. There is enough food, enough love, enough  homes, enough time, enough crayons, enough people to be friends with each other." "Nobody is good or valuable because of who their parents are, or bad because their parents were bad. They are as good and valuable as they are in their own words and deeds..."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Cinderella is kind and wants to be free to choose her own path in life. She's also compassionate and wants her stepsisters and the prince to find their true paths as well. Prince Nevermind is vulnerable and reveals he would really like to have friends, and his dream is to have his own farm. Cinderella an the prince model a mutually respectful, platonic friendship where marriage romance and marriage are not the goals.  The stepsister are greedy and self-absorbed but change over time in positive directions. Their mother starts out selsfish and superficial and remains so, but she's not as mean as in traditional versions of the story. 

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Cinderella Liberator, by award-winning adult author and essayist Rebecca Solnit, re-imagines the classic Cinderella story to be about a kind, independent person who's not angling to be a prince's wife. She wants freedom from her household drudgery, but she also wants to make her own way as a baker. And she's happy to be just friends with the prince and help him follow his dream to be a farmer rather than spend all his time in a palace doing nothing. It's a fresh, modern version that promotes positive values, and even the two stepsisters find their own true paths. The striking silhouette illustrations by Arthur Rackham, which originally appeared in a 1919 edition of Cinderella, add a classic feel to this bold new interpretation. And since they are all-black images with no skin tones presented, readers of all backgrounds can relate to the story and characters.

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What's the story?

As CINDERELLA LIBERATOR begins, our main character is shown mopping the floor, doing the laundry, and ironing the clothes, and we learn she's sometimes tired and lonely but she's also strong, capable, and a good cook and baker. When her stepsisters get an invitation for Prince Nevermind to go to his ball, Pearlita tries to give herself the highest hair-do, because "surely, having the tallest hair in the world would make you the most beautiful woman, and being the most beautiful woman in the world would make you the happiest." Her sister, Paloma, puts as many bows as possible on her dress, thinking, "having the fanciest dress in he world would make you the the most beautiful woman, and being the most beautiful woman in the world would make you the happiest." They go off to the ball, and, as usual, a fairy godmother appears, transforms a pumpkin into a carriage, mice into horses, a rat into a coachwoman, and lizards into footwomen, and waves her wand to change Cinderella's dress into a ball gown and give her glass slippers. She goes to the ball, dances with the prince, and when he asks who she is, she runs away, leaving one glass slipper behind. When the prince goes house to house in the village to find the girl the slipper belongs to, he finds perfect-fit Cinderella. Then comes a new backstory about her father (a great judge) and mother (a ship captain), who are both still living, and we find  out the prince has dreams of his own. He and Cinderella become friends and pursue their separate paths -- hers to open a bake shop, his to have a farm. Even the stepsisters' dreams come true: Peralita opens a hair salon, and Paloma becomes a seamstress in a dress shop. 

Is it any good?

This feminist tweaking of the Cinderella story manages to be richly entertaining while promoting positive values of being free to follow your own passion in life. The narration has a warm tone, with sly asides. For example, pointing out the flaw in the stepsisters' belief that "being the most beautiful would make you the happiest," the narrator notes, "They weren't happy, because they were worried that someone might have higher hair or more bows than they did. Usually someone does."

Cinderella Liberator chucks the goal of snagging a prince for a husband and stresses the importance of being your true self. The fairy godmother gives all the transformed creatures a choice after the ball to return to their old selves or stay in their new bodies, be it horse or human. The lizards decide to turn back into lizards, not wanting to lose the ability to "run up walls and lie in the sun on warm days." The fairy godmother tells Cinderella that "true magic is to help each thing become its best and most free self." And who wants to argue with a fairy godmother? 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Cinderella Liberator is different from the familiar, traditional telling of the classic Cinderella fairy tale. What's different about what Cinderella wants? What's different about the Prince? 

  • How do the stepsisters change over the course of the story? 

  • What do you think the overall message of the story is in this version?

  • How do you like the black silhouette art? 

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fairy tales and strong girls

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