The other night, my daughter and I read a book together titled Cinder Edna. Written by Ellen Jacksonand illustrated by Kevin O’Malley, Cinder Edna is a progressive look at Cinderella. Instead of positing the antiquated princess as a heroine, Jackson gives our little girls a true heroine — one who is empowered — Cinder Edna.

Cinder Edna’s situation is similar to that of Cinderella’s. They are both poor and forced to cook, clean, and sit in soot. They both have an evil stepmother and equally evil stepsisters, but everything else about them is the complete opposite. And it all has to do with perspective.

While Cinderella cries about her lot, Cinder Edna looks for the silver lining in some things and finds humor in others. She is positive and bright and attempts to resolve her problems with an acuity that Cinderella, the princess, lacks. Edna whistles while working, learns from the tasks that she is required to fulfill, and even earns her own money by mowing lawns. That’s independence.

When both girls are not taken to the ball to meet the charming prince, Cinderella weeps and begs for her fairy godmother to help her out. She is helpless, and even her godmother takes notice of her naivete and dependence on others to help her out of tough situations.

Edna, on the other hand, doesn’t ask for help or weep out of helplessness. She uses the money she earned by working for the neighbors to buy her dress, feels no need for extravagant glass slippers when her loafers look just as good and takes the bus to the ball.

While Cinderella scopes out the good-looking but dim-witted prince for her dance partner, Edna finds him boring and dances instead with Randolph, his ordinary brother. Focused more on personality and common interests, Edna is the winner in finding her soul mate.

In the end, they both get their man, but Cinderella is unhappy because the prince is never home and his ego is bigger than the palace they live in. Edna and Randolph are the better pair, and because they’re concerned about more important things than money and the superficial nature of good looks and pretenses, like solar heating and recycling, they live happily ever after.

What an intriguing way to take a tired and superficial fairy tale and place a twist in it that will intrigue today’s smart girls and their concerned parents?

While reading this book, my daughter was smiling, and even though Edna was not as pretty or perfect as Cinderella, she loved Cinder Edna for her spunk and uniqueness, for these are traits my daughter — and a lot of little girls — can relate to. She is not a princess, or rich, or perfect, but she is smart and funny and learning about what is of real importance in life.

This is a well-written book, and the comparisons that Jackson makes between Ella and Edna make it clear to her audience of little girls that Edna is the heroine to emulate because her values move beyond the superficial of appearances and female helplessness.

We need more books like this one for our girls, so keep them coming Ellen Jackson.

Have you come across any good books that attempt to empower our little girls? Share!

Feminist Book Review: Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson

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