For Traditional Thursdays this week, I was so excited to review “Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters”, by John Steptoe. Steptoe takes on an African tale for a unique version of the traditional story of Cinderella. I thought this was a wonderful representation of a story we were all accustomed to. In this book, the Cinderella story runs through the main idea – a girl who is very beautiful, but somehow ‘less fortunate’ finds her ‘true prince’ through kindness and compassion. However, the details are quite different! First of all, our Cinderella, called Nyasha, is not a step-sister, but a true sister, to the catty and mean-spirited Manyara. Both girls wish to marry the King of the land, as they are the most beautiful daughters! Throughout the book, we see examples of Nyasha’s kindness to everyone and everything she meets – be it a garden snake or an old woman! However, Manyara is filled with greed and lust for power (much like Cinderella’s evil step-sisters) and wishes to beat Nyasha to the call of marrying the King. Sure enough, upon arriving at the King’s court, Manyara finds herself too frightened to see the truth in the world. Nyasha is rewarded for her kindness, and finds that the King was with her in every kind endeavor she came across, and truly knew her heart.
I think this book is a great way to challenge students’ perspectives – the same stories and messages can be told in every language! It is also a beautiful and engaging rendition of a popular story – thus engaging students in a new world with new settings, new characters, and new themes. The pictures really help the text come alive for the reader! I really think students would enjoy comparing and contrasting this story with the one they are usually familiar with.