Everyone knows the classic story of Cinderella. A beautiful, yet lonely girl with two evil stepsisters, a magical fairy godmother, a pair of enchanted glass slippers, a carriage made from a pumpkin, and the happily ever after with her handsome Prince Charming. Well, what if the story had a bit of a cultural twist?
In Shirley Climo’s The Persian Cinderella, we encounter a new type of princess. Meet Settareh, a young and lovely girl in Persian society trying to escape from the exhausting demands of her household. While it seems that this story is the same with a difference in name, the setting and cultural accuracy is a defining feature of this book. The Persian Cinderella diverges from the traditional tale of Cinderella as Settareh is placed within the very male-dominated and religious society of Persia. Many customs found in Persian society are accurately depicted within Settareh’s interactions with her family, and even strangers. For example, instead of living with her stepmother and stepsisters like in the classic tale, Settareh lives with her aunts, cousins, as well as her distracted, yet kind father signifying the major role family had within this culture.
The beautiful illustrations done by Robert Florczak of the mosques, town markets, and of arabesque art is central to not only the understanding of Persian values, but to the realistic depiction of this society. This book is ideal to teach children about traditions and customs found within other cultures. By drawing comparisons with stories that they are familiar with those of other society’s, they would be able to find similarities and differences within two distinct regions and cultures. I would recommend this book for 3rd through 5th grade, but I think any class examining Middle Eastern traditions could definitely benefit from reading the Persian tradition of the beloved Cinderella.
Reviewed by: Hannah Ladendorf