PW called this Iraqi Cinderella tale "a visual treat from start to finish." Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
- Joyce Rice
Maha's father is a fisherman and must be away for long periods. Maha wishes for a stepmother and stepsister to keep her company and to help her. When Maha's wish comes true, and her father marries again, Maha is delighted. Her delight ends when the stepmother becomes jealous of her and makes her do all the work, and feeds her only dried dates. Maha's unlikely rescuer is the red fish that she throws back into the water. This is another Cinderella tale but with differences that make it unique to the country of Iraq. This is an excellent addition for teaching origin of this genre, as well as teaching about other countries. It is a delightful story just for sharing, but can also be used in instruction during multicultural units.
School Library Journal
In this gentle Cinderella variant from Iraq, young Maha begs her widowed father to marry their seemingly kind neighbor, a widow with a daughter of her own. After the marriage, however, the woman grows to loathe her stepdaughter, and she and her daughter treat Maha like a slave. One day, the poor girl rescues a talking red fish that helps her over the years. Finally, it provides her with fine clothes so that she may attend a wealthy young woman's bridal ritual. She stays too long, and in her flight, she loses one of her golden sandals. Tariq, the bride's brother, finds it, and his mother searches the city for the owner of the shoe. Maha's foot is a perfect fit and she and Tariq live happily ever after. In her gracefully written narrative, Hickox effectively blends many familiar touches with elements of the story that will be new to Western audiences. An author's note provides the sources for this well-told tale. Hillenbrand's delicate, textured illustrations have the look of watered silk touched with glowing jewel-toned accents. The paintings integrate well with the text, and the result is a sweet, smooth book with just a hint of spice. Donna L. Scanlon, Lancaster County Library, PA
Maha, the beloved daughter of a widowed fisherman from Iraq, joins the burgeoning ranks of beguiling picture-book Cinderellas from around the world. In this simply written version, Maha's father gives in to his daughter's urgings that he marry their "good neighbor," thereby giving her a mother and sister. Maha's fortunes alter - for the worse - and her needed fairy godmother appears as a red fish whose life Maha has spared. Maha earns the fish's eternal gratitude ("call for me any time and ask what you will"). The fish insures Maha's presence at the henna-painting celebration for a new bride, warning only that Maha leave before her stepmother. She does, but loses one of her golden sandals in her race across the footbridge. Illustrator Hillenbrand uses both interior and external architectural details to re-create the limpid Middle Eastern landscape. Beginning with young Maha's mended vest and her rooster's proud comb, Hillenbrand's dazzling reds contrast his more muted palette and direct our attention toward important elements in the tale: the scarlet henna-stained hands and feet of the bride; the crimson vest of Tariq, brother to the bride, who discovers Maha's sandal and deter-mines its owner will be his wife; the ruby fish. Throughout, Hillenbrand lightens the tale with humorous touches, none more so than his final portrait of Maha's stepsister, bald head polka-dotted with red blisters (a plan to cause Maha to lose all her hair having backfired) and a red fish earring dangling from her ear. A concluding note from author and illustrator records their respective research in bringing a new and appealing version of "Cinderella" to young readers.
Hickox (Zorro and Quwi, 1997) finds her Cinderella in Maha, a fairy godmother in a red fish that Maha shows mercy to, and the lost slipper in a golden sandal, discovered by Tariq, brother of a rich merchant, who then takes on the search for his bride- to-be. When he arrives at Maha's house, her stepmother conceals her in an outdoor bread oven, but a happily-ever-after ending is as integral to this Iraqi version of the story as it is to other retellings. An illustrator's note explains the complex process undertaken for the artwork, done in stages with oils, oil pastel, egg tempera, watercolor, crayon and pencil on vellum, but what readers will come away with is an appreciation for the unusual setting, comic characters, and the age-old emotions and resolutions that rule this story.