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Buy Cinderella of the Nile

Meghan Cox Gurdon for The Wall Street Journal has written a great review of Cinderella of the Nile! Read it below.

Books: The Thrill of Imaginative Play

Drawing on ancient elements, a new picture book recounts the travails of the lovely Greek girl Rhodopis, named for her rosy cheeks.

Some folk and fairy tales are like narrative snowballs. At the core there’s a fragment of fancy or a long-ago real event that has picked up so many accretions through the rolling years that, by the time we get to it, the story has grown dense and bristling with oddities. Such is the case with the elaborate tale that Beverley Naidoo recounts in “Cinderella of the Nile” (Tiny Owl, 40 pages, $17.95). Ms. Naidoo describes the travails of a lovely Greek redhead who marries the king of Egypt. Rhodopis, so named for her rosy cheeks, is tending goats in the mountains of northern Greece when she is kidnapped by a bandit: “A girl like this could be sold for a fat bag of silver coins.” As we see in Marjan Vafaeian’s intense, detailed illustrations, Rhodopis finds herself transported and enslaved in a wealthy man’s compound on the island of Samos. There she meets a field slave named Aesop—this bit is from Herodotus—who tells her the fable of the oak and the reed, inspiring her to bend with circumstance so as to survive life’s storms.

Sold away again, the girl lands in Egypt, where she enters the household of a merchant. At this point, the tale begins to share characteristics with the European variant that most children know. The merchant employs three jealous sisters, who delight in persecuting Rhodopis. Word goes out that Pharaoh seeks a wife. Then, as Rhodopis washes clothes at the river, the falcon-god Horus swoops down, swipes one of her dainty slippers and drops it into Pharaoh’s hand. (In Strabo’s version from antiquity, the bird is an eagle.) Strange and syncretic in both image and story, “Cinderella of the Nile” ends with a flourish right out of Disney—and tradition: Rhodopis and Pharaoh, we’re told, “lived happily together for the rest of their lives.”

  • Book Trust: we can’t stop gazing at the beautiful Cinderella of the Nile
  • Read a review by Jill Bennett: The illustrations are a perfect complement to Beverley Naidoo’s fine telling
  • Read a blog by classicist Meghan Sullivan: illustrations echo ancient Egyptian art
  • Read a blog: Five books on courage and kindness for kids chosen by Beverley Naidoo

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