A Fractured Fairy Tale in Rhyme
by Robert D. San Souci
Illustrated by David Catrow
Harcourt Brace / Silver Whistle Books, September 2000
[AGES 5-10] hardcover
$16.00 ($24.00 Canada)
Cinderella Skeleton: A Truly "Fractured" Fairy Tale
"Hysterically funny." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred)
"Share this macabre rib tickler with Stinky Cheese fans." -- Booklist
"A Cinderella story that girls and boys will love." -- Publishers Weekly
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The Cinderella story is perhaps one of the best known and most retold tales in history. More than five hundred variations of the story have been recorded in Europe alone. Film and television adaptations continue to be popular as well-from Disney's classic animated film of 1950 to the remake of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical featuring a racially diverse cast in 1997 to the decidedly independent Cinderella character played by Drew Barrymore in Ever After in 1998. But of all the Cinderella stories ever told, perhaps none is as fresh and original as Robert D. San Souci's Cinderella Skeleton, illustrated by David Catrow (Silver Whistle/Harcourt, 2000).
In this frightfully delightful version of the story, the main character is not a beautiful maiden forced to sweep the ashes from the fireplace but a spindly skeleton whose chores include hanging up cobwebs, arranging dead flowers, dirtying the floor, and feeding the bats:
Was everything a ghoul should be:
Her build was long and lean and lank;
Her dankish hair hung down in hanks;
Her nails were yellow; her teeth were green-
The ghastliest haunt you've ever seen.
Foulest in the land was she.
In San Souci's imaginative version of the story, Prince Charming becomes Prince Charnel, and the "frightfully famous" ball Cinderella Skeleton longs to attend is held on Halloween. After her stepmother and evil stepsisters leave for the party in a hearse, Cinderella Skeleton visits a good witch who sends her off to the ball in style. But as she flees the palace before the break of day, Cinderella Skeleton loses an entire foot on the palace stairs. Prince Charnel searches the countryside, seeking the one whose anklebone would match the foot he held. Reunited at last, Prince Charnel and Cinderella Skeleton marry and stay "happy ever after."
Robert D. San Souci is well known for his retellings of folk-and fairy tales for children. His popular books include SOOTFACE: An Ojibwa Cinderella Story, illustrated by Daniel San Souci; THE TALKING EGGS: A Folktale from the American South, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney; and THE FAITHFUL FRIEND, illustrated by Brian Pinkney. Robert D. San Souci lives in San Francisco, California.
David Catrow is an award-winning, nationally syndicated political cartoonist and the illustrator of many popular children's picture books, including THE EMPEROR'S OLD CLOTHES and SHE'S WEARING A DEAD BIRD ON HER HEAD!, both written by Kathryn Lasky. The latter was named a New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year in 1995. David Catrow lives in Springfield, Ohio.
As part of the trade division of Harcourt, Inc.-which celebrated eighty years of publishing in 1999-Harcourt Children's Books publishes quality board books and novelty items, picture books, easy readers, and novels for children of all ages. Harcourt, Inc. is a leading global multiple-media publisher, which provides educational, career-training, and assessment products and services to the classroom, corporate, medical, professional, and consumer markets.
The idea for the book
came to me when I happened to see one of those hand-painted motorcycle jackets
that had a wonderful skeletal figure on the back. I think it was dressed as
the World War I flying ace, the Red Baron-wearing an old-fashioned helmet with
a red streamer. As I was walking along, I started to think of how much fun it
would be to blend my love of things "ghostly, ghastly" with picture
books. Envisioning some of my favorite stories recast in Halloween terms led
me to my favorite tale, "Cinderella," and, eventually, to the phrase
"Cinderella skeleton." It had a nice internal rhyme and a rhythm that
quickly began to suggest a pattern for poetry. A first draft of this
"fractured fairy tale" came together in a matter of days. However, there were many, many rewrites to come before the poem was finished.
Because I'd never attempted more than a few lines of verse in my other books, I wasn't sure how a story written entirely in rhyme would be received. Happily, my agent fell in love with "Cindy Skel" right off the bat-as did my editor at Silver Whistle/Harcourt. And so the book began.
The choice of David Catrow as illustrator was just inspired, I think. He's created a heroine who is wistful and slightly grotesque at the same time-a wonderful balance. And the pictures are so rich with details-from Cinderella's cranial dandelion to the unearthly guests at Prince Charnel's ball-that I continually find myself going back for another look, always discovering some fresh delight.
I wasn't sure how the grisly touches would go over (such as poor Cinderella Skeleton leaving not only her slipper but her entire foot behind when she leaves the ball)-but it seems to . . . well, tickle the funny bone of those who read it.
CINDERELLA SKELETON reveals my interest in subjects amusing and edgy, and like other so-called "Halloween" books I've written, I hope it will find an audience year-round.
Copyright © 2000 by Robert D. San Souci. All rights reserved.