Any reader of this blog knows that we have a fascination with fairy tales. We also really love fractured fairy tales or the notion of taking a look at classic stories and re-imagining them. My 11 year old actually is planning on writing one of her own. So when the #KidLitExchange posted My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella, I had to take a look. (So I did receive a copy of this for my honest review. All opinions are my own)
This is actually one book within a series written for kids by Jerry Mahoney that is fun and very tongue in cheek. Each book features Maddie and her stepbrother, Holden, and in each book they accidentally “break” a fairy tale and must fix it. In this particular book, Maddie has done a report on her favorite story of all time, Cinderella. Holden insults her project at home and then questions the holes in the story itself during Maddie’s class presentation. Unwittingly, this actually changes the story and has one of Cinderella’s stepsisters marrying the prince instead of her and as Maddie starts to read “once upon a time,” the pair get sucked into the story.
This is not the first book that we have read where kids wind up inside of a fairy tale. The Land of Stories takes a fabulous look at the world of fairy tales and the Whatever After series also has a brother/sister pair sucked into a tale and having to put it right. With the My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined series, there is a strong similarity to Whatever After, but it feels more gender neutral and the reading level is a bit higher. Additionally, Maddie and Holden have a much greater need to actually fix their problem as they will not be able to get out of their messed up fairy tale without giving Cinderella her happily ever after.
Holden makes some good points when he knit-picks the originally Cinderella. How did she walk home with one shoe and not completely damage her feet? How is it that no one else could fit their foot into her shoe? How could the pair have danced all night and yet the prince was unable to recognize her? Jerry Mahoney also takes a look at the members of Cinderella’s family. Why do they want to marry the prince so badly? What do they really want out of life? In this book, the sister marrying the prince wants to go to art school and design clothing. There is also the question of why the stepsisters hate Cinderella so much. It all comes back to their mother and when given the chance to see that kindness and teamwork feels better than cruelty and selfishness, the sisters change. Of course, they manage to bring back Cinderella’s happily ever after and return home.
In addition to the story, it is a great idea to encourage kids to look at classic stories and think how they might re-imagine them. In the back of this book, Jerry Mahoney encourages kids to do just that! For kids that are well read, they know that there are many takes on various fairy tales. I’ve written a ton about all of the versions of Cinderella alone! Mahoney ends this book with a note to kids about how to go about writing their own version. I particularly like the fact that he says to pick “a story that you love.” When you do, you can never really “ruin” it, you just make everyone appreciate the original even more and perhaps find a way to change the way people think about it.
What is your favorite fairy tale?