Normally I publish a Fairy Tale post on a Friday, but as today is Halloween I wanted to post a day early.
This is truly one of my favourite picture books. Cinderella Skeleton was written by the delightful author Robert D San Souci. He was a consultant at Disney Studios and wrote the story for Mulan. He studied folklore and often worked with his brother Daniel who was a children's book illustrator. He is responsible for some of my favourite folk tale retellings--The Talking Eggs and Cendrillon. Both of those are beautifully illustrated by the talented artistic family The Pinkneys with father Jerry Pinkney illustrating The Talking Eggs and son Brian Pinkney illustrating Cendrillon.
This story is perfectly illustrated by David Catrow who was a visual developer for animated films such as Despicable Me and Horton Hears a Who. To be honest, these illustrations *make* the book what it is. It is written in verse and Catrow's perfect illustrations compliment the text.
In this tale Cinderella Skeleton was "foulest in the land" and everything a ghoul should be with her dankish hair, yellow nails and teeth of green. She is forced to do all the work in their mausoleum--hanging cobwebs, arranging dead flowers in vases and putting dust and leaves on the floor. When they are invited to Prince Charnel's Halloween ball she is not allowed to go. What I like here is that she is a plucky heroine with some initiative. She doesn't sit and cry and wait for a fairy godmother to rescue her to make her dreams come true. She marches off without delay to the witch in the woods to ask for help. She is given a funeral wagon made from a jack-o-lantern pulled by nightmares (part horse/part dragon) and a beautiful dress that looks like it made of cobwebs. But the piece de resistance is the dandelion flower growing out of the top of her head like a crown. (See picture above.)
As in many of these stories, our heroine has a midnight curfew. After dancing with Prince Charnel all night she runs away. However, instead of leaving a shoe behind she leaves her whole foot which snaps off when the Prince tries to stop her from departing. This is a hilarious and charming detail that is rendered so well in the illustrations. Our Prince travels the land and every maiden snaps off her foot at the ankle for a chance to be his wife.
Finally, she hops into the room and our lovers are reunited. He says to her the funniest compliment I have ever heard and always want to quote:
"Your gleaming skull and burnished bones,
Your teeth like polished kidney stones...
you make each day a Halloween."
My only complaint (if there is any) is that there are several spiders featured in the illustrations, none of which are remotely anatomically correct. Not even close. But the rest of the story is delightful.