What was Cinderella's handsome prince doing while his future lady was toiling away at her work and wishing for a way to the ball? The Prince's Diary
, a sweet new picture book from Renee Ting and Elizabeth O. Dulemba
, answers that question. The book gives a charming and humorous flip side to the famous fairy tale, showing the prince bored stiff by his mother's marriage schemes and by all the young lovelies who would like to be his bride. What would he like to do instead? He wants to visit the whistling, rag-bedecked girl he keeps spotting. He doesn't know her name, but he writes in his diary, "I think I'll call her Cinderella."
Does the book take some liberties with the fairy tale? Definitely. There is a ball, a glass slipper, a prince, and a toiling girl named Cinderella (I mean Cynthia), but that's about it. Which is absolutely fine: folk tales are intrinsically changeable. The famous Disney film took incredible liberties with the story: the Grimm's collected tale "Ashenputtel" contained no fairy godmother at all, but a magic tree (which hinted at the ghostly existence of Cinderella's dead mother) that shook down magical dresses from its enchanted leaves.
Although the step-mother's evil intentions towards Cinderella are creepily palpable in the Disney version of the story, the film actually sapped the original tale of some of its darker elements (in the original tale, the step-sisters don't just get their hopes dashed, they get their feet bloodied and their eyes pecked out). The Prince's Diary goes a step further in lightening the story and gives us a cheery, unflappable Miss, who although apparently barred from the ball by her step-mother (and who doesn't make a gown-decked appearance at all), never lets her spirits droop and who never stops smiling.
Smile or no smile, the big question we must ask any version of the famous tale is this: does Cindy get her man? If a horse ride, shared blackberry scones, and furious step-relations are any indication, then this "Cinderella" hints at a happy ending worthy of all its predecessors. Elizabeth Dulemba's comical, perky drawings and Renee Ting's sweet text make this picture book a wonderful addition to the Cinderella tradition.