Climo, Shirley. The Persian Cinderella. Ill. by Robert Florczak. New York: Harper Collins, 1999. ISBN: 0060267658
A beautiful maiden, Settareh, uses the money her father gave her for a snack, to help an old lady, and then buys a small blue jug. She doesn’t have enough to buy cloth for new clothes for Prince Mehrdad’s New Year’s celebration, so she stays home so her family won’t be disgraced. However, she discovers her little blue jug is magic. Its inhabitant, a pari, outfits Settareh in a dark red silk dress, beautiful jewelry, and two diamond anklets. She attends the celebration, but leaves behind one of the anklets. The prince’s mother finds Settareh and introduces her to the prince. However, on the day of the wedding, Settareh’s jealous stepsisters use magical hairpins (obtained from the pari) to arrange Settareh’s hair and she turns into a turtledove. Prince Mehrdad’s love remains and he breaks the spell. Settareh’s happiness begins.
This is a familiar tale, but offers an enchanting setting of long ago Persia and has the twist of Settareh turning into a turtledove. There are many cultural details: although the prince glimpses Settareh at the celebration, they don’t actually meet; Settareh celebrates with the other women; and it is the Queen, not the Prince who searches for the owner of the left behind anklet. One explanation though, “…covered her head with a cloak so that no stranger might look on her face” is contradicted by a later picture when Settareh is with a peddler.
Settareh is instantly likable. She is kind to those in need and gentle with nature. Her step-mother is mentioned only once, but does not play a role in the tale. Several other characters provide interaction: the stepsisters, the peddlers, and the pari. There are musicians and magicians at the New Year’s celebration.
Climo does a nice job of expressing the Prince’s anguish, “plucking hairs from his beard”, and “shut himself within his royal chamber” and Florzak’s illustration shows the Prince solemn with the turtledove. On the very next page, the joy is evident in text and picture.
The illustrations in The Persian Cinderella are done in “water-based markers, colored pencil, body color, and ink on brownline paper” (as explained in the artist’s note). These were excellent choices as the lifelike drawings are colorful and appear to “pop” on the pages. Text pages are outlined in exquisite Persian rugs. The whole book is definitely appealing to the eye!
KIRKUS REVIEW: “A luminescent interpretation of an ancient Persian tale is Climo’s latest entry to her multicultural collection of Cinderella tales.”
BOOKLIST: “The people look as lifelike as photographs, each face unique. A fine addition for any folktale collection.”
*’01-’02 TX Bluebonnet Award Master List
*Other Cinderella tales by Climo
The Korean Cinderella
The Irish Cinderlad
The Egyptian Cinderella
*Study ancient Persia and modern Iran.
*Present other folklore from Iran.