Gospel Cinderella


Once upon a time . . .

There was a singing Cinderella?

Yes, with a voice as flavorful as licorice.

There was also a Crooked Foster Mother and two evil sisters. A Queen Mother Rhythm and a Prince of Music.

And while there's no glass slipper to leave behind at the Great Gospel Convention, there is an ...

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Once upon a time . . .

There was a singing Cinderella?

Yes, with a voice as flavorful as licorice.

There was also a Crooked Foster Mother and two evil sisters. A Queen Mother Rhythm and a Prince of Music.

And while there's no glass slipper to leave behind at the Great Gospel Convention, there is an enchanted melody for the Prince to search for . . . and to find.

Award-winning author and poet Joyce Carol Thomas and Caldecott Medal-winning artist David Diaz have infused the classic Cinderella tale with a soulful twist.

A variation on the traditional Cinderella story set in a Southern swamp and with a Great Gospel Convention instead of a ball.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Thomas (Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea) puts a Southern spin on a well-known fairy tale for a charismatic adaptation set in the swamp. When a hurricane sweeps Queen Mother Rhythm's baby downstream, Crooked Foster Mother finds the mud-covered infant, names her Cinderella ("seein' how you're as dirty as a cinder pile") and brings her home to be a servant. In Thomas's inspired version, a Great Gospel Convention is held instead of a ball, as Queen Mother Rhythm (along with the Prince of Music, her pianist) searches for a successor to lead the Great Gospel Choir. After Crooked Foster Mother's evil twins depart for the audition, Cinderella evades the crocodiles, plucking wildflowers to affix to her simple dress and braiding vines for a belt. So disguised, the heroine sneaks into the convention, and "with a voice as sweet as licorice," she wins the day and finds her mother (but not before the Prince of Music searches for the mystery soloist). Diaz's (Smoky Night) stylized illustrations capture the emotion and the humor of the tale. Bright golden marsh flowers radiate in the chocolatey-brown hair of the African-American characters, while sky-blue backdrops and purple royal robes add a vibrant contrast to the lush green setting. This unique twist on a classic subtly emphasizes the roots of gospel music, as a respite from hardship and sorrow. Lyrics curling out of mother and daughter's mouths and winding around the page declare that song is "Easing my pain/ And lifting me up." Ages 5-10. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Queen Mother Rhythm, leader of the Great Gospel Choir, had a "voice as flavorful as licorice." During a raging hurricane her sweet baby was swept downstream where Crooked Foster Mother discovered the muddy child and named her Cinderella. This woman was "so evil that even the sun was scared to rise when she was outside." Her twin daughters were just as mean and the three of them made Cinderella do all the work. The twist on the Cinderella story comes when Queen Mother Rhythm decides to retire and auditions for the lead gospel singer are held. Guess who can sing! It certainly was not the screeching twins. The Prince needed to search for an enchanted melody, not a glass slipper. The variation of the classic tale is a sure winner for the award-winning author and illustrator. Ebullient illustrations tenderly intertwine with the well-constructed tale and will surely invite readers to revisit again and again. 2004, Joanna Cotler Books/HarperCollins, Ages 5 to 10.
—Laura Hummel
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3-Numerous "Cinderella" variants abound, including John L. Steptoe's Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters (HarperCollins, 1987), and Robert San Souci's Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella (S & S, 1998), but none so distinctly African American as in this version, which draws on the gospel music tradition. Set in a southern swamp, it has the usual elements of a poor, persecuted young girl and mean stepmother and stepsisters. But instead of a prince looking for his princess, a mother, Queen Rhythm, looks for a Daughter of Rhythm to take her place in the Great Gospel Choir. A convention is held to find that one special voice. The prince here is the choir's piano-playing Prince of Music. Cinderella, of course, turns out to be the long-lost daughter of Queen Rhythm. She is finally located through a house-to-house search, and takes her rightful place in the choir beside her mother, accompanied by the prince on the piano. Diaz's double-page acrylics fill the spreads with humorous, bold, and colorful images. A delightful universal tale with an added musical twist.-Mary N. Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Those who love reading tales with Cinderella motifs will no doubt want to have this one, however disappointing it might be. Set in a southern swamp, the story revolves around the competition for a place in a gospel choir rather than marriage to a prince. Queen Mother Rhythm loses her infant daughter during a hurricane. Rescued by "Crooked Foster Mother" (a poor choice of names), she lives the typical Cinderella life with the mean twin sisters, Hennie and Minnie, and their mother. She can sing; they cannot. Then they learn that Queen Mother Rhythm is about to retire and she needs someone to take her place as lead singer. The ending is predictable and follows the basic folkloric story structure. But Thomas's telling, despite moments of soulful jive, mostly clumps along without charm. Diaz's use of rich bold colors of purples, pinks, and leafy greens in strikingly patterned illustrations is spirited and beautiful, but is not enough to redeem the lackluster text. (Picture book. 5-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060253882
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/11/2004
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 5 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.20 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Joyce Carol Thomas is an internationally renowned author who received the National Book Award for her first novel, Marked By Fire, and a Coretta Scott King Honor for The Blacker the Berry and for her first picture book, Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea. Her picture book I Have Heard of a Land received a Coretta Scott King Honor and an IRA/CBC Teachers' Choice Award and was an ALA Notable Book. Her other titles include The Gospel Cinderella, Crowning Glory, Gingerbread Days, and A Gathering of Flowers. Ms. Thomas lives in Berkeley, California.

David Diaz has illustrated numerous award-winning books for children, including smoky night by Eve Bunting, for which he was awarded the Caldecott Medal; The Wanderer by Sharon Creech, which received a Newbery Honor; and Me, Frida by Amy Novesky, a Pura Belpré Honor Award winner. Mr. Diaz lives in Southern California.

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