A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Cinnamon is by award-winning and best-selling author Neil Gaiman (Chu's Day), who's created a tale set in India that has the feel of a traditional folktale. Originally written in 1995 and recorded as part of an audiobook collection but never published, this tale of a blind princess and a tiger who teaches her to speak is now a picture book with beautiful art by Divya Srinivasan. There's some scariness because the tiger is a fierce "man-eater," and he eats the embittered old aunt.
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What's the story?
CINNAMON is a princess "in a small hot country" that looks like India. She also doesn't talk. Her parents, the Rajah and the Rani, offer riches to anyone who can get Cinnamon to talk, but no one succeeds. Then a tiger shows up who admits to being a "man-eater," but Cinnamon is led into a room with him. The tiger draws blood from her hand to teach her "pain" and roars to teach her "fear," but then licks her face to teach her "love." Cinnamon emerges able to talk, inspired by the tiger’s tales "of the jungle, of the chattering of the monkeys and the smell of the dawn and the taste of the moonlight and the noise a lakeful of flamingos makes when it takes to the air." She then leaves with the tiger "for a while to further her education."
Is it any good?
There's striking art and beautiful language in this tale about a princess in a lush South Asian setting. Some of the language in Cinnamon soars. The tiger is "huge and fierce, a nightmare in black and orange, and he moved like a god through the world, which is how tigers move." Some questions remain. Cinnamon's blind, but it's the fact that she doesn't talk that drives the story. It's a bit unclear what motivates Cinnamon, both not to talk and then to change her mind. But the story is progressive in that it doesn't seek a suitor for the princess, and education and experience, not marriage, are her prize.
Divya Srinivasan’s gorgeous art lends the book a rich texture. Her fabrics and clothing are sumptuous, her tiger fiercely regal, and the palace and jungle strongly evoke the wild, beautiful setting, ensuring that readers are taken on a very satisfying journey.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the folktale quality of Cinnamon. Though this isn't a traditional tale, which parts of the story make it seem like a classic folktale?
Though the author doesn't tell us, can you tell where the story takes place? What are the clues in the story and art?
Why do you think Cinnamon didn't speak? Why does she change her mind? Why do you think she trusts the tiger?
- Author: Neil Gaiman
- Illustrator: Divya Srinivasan
- Genre: Picture Book
- Topics: Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Fairy Tales, Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
- Publication date: May 2, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 4 - 8
- Number of pages: 40
- Available on: Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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