Gift of the Crocodile: A Cinderella Story

Gift of the Crocodile: A Cinderella Story

by Judy Sierra, Reynold Ruffins

In the Spice Islands, where clove and nutmeg trees grow,
a girl named Damura lived long ago.

Damura is a beautiful girl, as kind and lovely as the little green parrot that perches on the nutmeg tree. But Damura's stepmother and stepsister mistreat her. They force her to rise before dawn, carry out all the chores, and sleep on the floor. One day,


In the Spice Islands, where clove and nutmeg trees grow,
a girl named Damura lived long ago.

Damura is a beautiful girl, as kind and lovely as the little green parrot that perches on the nutmeg tree. But Damura's stepmother and stepsister mistreat her. They force her to rise before dawn, carry out all the chores, and sleep on the floor. One day, while down by the river, Damura calls out to the creatures of the wild for help. Rising from the waters, an ancient crocodile answers the call. This unusual fairy godmother, aptly named Grandmother Crocodile, outfits Damura in a sarong of gold, with slippers to match, and sends her to the palace to dance for the prince. Once he sees her, the prince knows that she will be his bride.
But the fairy tale isn't quite over. Damura's wicked stepmother and stepsister are so jealous that they push Damura into the river, where she is swallowed by a crocodile. Too bad they didn't know about Grandmother Crocodile....
The Gift of the Crocodile, a tale from the Spice Islands in Indonesia, offers a colorful and dramatic twist on the universally adored Cinderella story.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Setting this colorful story in the Spice Islands, Sierra (Nursery Tales Around the World) incorporates motifs found in Cinderella folktales from various parts of the world as well as elements of Diamonds and Toads-type fables. Overworked by her conniving stepmother and stepsister, Damura one day loses her tattered sarong in the river. When a crocodile responds to her pleas for help, Damura remembers her late mother's advice to treat wild creatures with respect. She talks politely with Grandmother Crocodile, who fetches for her "a silver sarong that sparkled like the night sky." Damura's deceitful stepsister soon pretends she has lost a sarong, too, in hopes of receiving an equally lovely new one, but the crocodile gives her a sarong that turns into a filthy rag swarming with leeches. Later, when the prince invites all the young women to dance for him at the palace, the crocodile produces a sarong of pure gold for Damura, plus slippers to match. A few departures from the standard Cinderella story will keep readers on their toes. Sierra's confident delivery finds its match in Ruffins's (Running the Road to ABC) primitivist acrylic art, which captures the lush vegetation, sparkling multitoned waters and the people's patterned clothing while retaining an essential calm and spareness. Strategic use of spot art and small silhouettes in addition to full-page and full-spread compositions creates a visual syncopation. Even with an abundance of available Cinderella stories, this version is memorably vivid. Ages 4-8. (Nov.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
"In the Spice Islands, where clove and nutmeg trees grow" begins this Cinderella tale from Indonesia. Damura must work hard for her wicked stepmother and cruel stepsister, and sleep in the ashes. The role of fairy godmother is played by Grandmother Crocodile, who provides Damura with golden sarong, blouse, and slippers to wear to the Palace dance at which the prince will choose his bride. Of course the prince is captivated. Through her lost slipper he finds the elusive Damura and marries her. They cannot live happily ever after yet, however, for the stepmother and daughter push Damura into the river where she is swallowed by a crocodile. But Grandmother Crocodile makes sure that justice triumphs. Ruffins's highly stylized scenes convey the lushness of the setting and the animation of the people. Birds, butterflies, and the many patterned sarongs add to the appealing single and double-page scenes. Many little black-and-white vignettes help keep the visual narrative flowing. The rich patterns of Indonesia are only suggested. There are notes about both the Spice Islands and the Cinderella theme. But there is no clue as to the identification of the "lorikeet" mentioned in the text. 2000, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Ages 4 to 8, $17.00. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-A handsome Cinderella variant from the Spice Islands. Young Damura is advised by her dying mother to be kind to all wild creatures. Later on, in an interesting twist, the girl is bribed with a doll to plead her would-be stepmother's case to her father. After the marriage, she is mistreated by the woman and her daughter. She loses her old sarong while washing laundry in the river. Hearing her sobs, a crocodile offers to retrieve it if the girl will rock her baby, and returns with a silver dress. When the greedy sister tries the same thing but is cruel to the baby and crisp with Grandmother Crocodile, she wins a leech-covered rag. Years later, when a prince seeks a bride, the stepsister wears the silver dress but Grandmother Crocodile supplies Damura with the essentials. After the prince claims his bride with a lost slipper and the two are married, the jealous stepmother and her daughter push Damura into the river where she is eaten by a crocodile. In a funny sequence, Grandmother confronts her river children and a fat crocodile is forced to cough out Damura. Ruffins's handsome acrylic paintings reflect the Indonesian love of color and pattern. Page design varies to include bordered illustrations, vignettes, and several eloquent silhouettes. Sierra's retelling is strong and fun to read aloud. A useful author's note sorts out variations in motifs across cultures. A fine addition to the groaning shelf of Cinderella stories.-Susan Hepler, Burgundy Farm Country Day School, Alexandria, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A reptilian"fairy godmother" provides more than fine clothing for this Indonesian Cinderella. Beguiled by a widowed neighbor's gift, young Damura persuades her father to remarry. Subsequently forced into servitude, her distress draws an ancient crocodile—who, because she behaves with proper respect, not only furnishes her with lovely sarongs, but brings her back to life after her stepmother and stepsister feed her to another crocodile. Ruffins (Running the Road to ABC, 1996, Coretta Scott King Honor) sets long-limbed, colorfully clad figures into bright, open tropical settings, ably capturing Damura's sadness, her stepsister's disagreeable nature, even the crocodile's solicitude with clearly drawn expressions and body language. Sierra tells the tale simply and fluidly, closing with a note on her source (a Dutch collection of Spice Island folktales), and on Cinderella tales in general. The story itself follows a familiar track, even to the lost slipper, but the exotic setting, plus several humorous touches, set it apart from the rest of this year's crowd. (Picture book/folk tale. 6-9)

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
10.75(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)
590L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Judy Sierra is the author of many award-winning books for children including the bestsellers Antarctic Antics, illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey; Wild About Books, illustrated by Marc Brown; and The Secret Science Project that Almost Ate the School, illustrated by Stephen Gammell. Sierra holds a PhD in folklore and mythology from the University of California, Los Angeles. She has received the Children’s Choice Award from the International Reading Association, two Aesop awards from the American Folklore Society, and the E.B. White Read Aloud Prize from the Association of Booksellers for Children. She lives with her husband in Eugene, Oregon. Visit her online at

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