Module 6: Cinderella Skeleton

“Cinderella Skeleton”, by Rob D. San Souci with illustrations by David Catrow, plays with the idea of doing what is ‘right’. This ghoulish twist on the classic tale has Cinderella Skeleton charged with the task of making the house more and more filthy, while her stepsisters are allowed to languish. Cinderella Skeleton is forbidden from attending the ball, but finally decides to do something for herself and, with the help of the good witch, gets a gown and a carriage to attend the ball. Instead of the Prince being left with the glass slipper, he is left with Cinderella’s snapped off bone and foot, which is a little too gory for children. That would be very upsetting for them to see, and I would therefore not recommend it at all for children under ten. The illustrations are charming with fantastic ghoulish creatures in gothic settings, but with such lovely and vibrant pastel colors, that the gloomy edge is taken off.

I would use this in a story time setting for children over the age of 5 who would not be upset and some of the gory parts of the book and could understand that it was just for fun. I did read this book during a Halloween-themed children’s story hour and it was enjoyed by the children, but not as much as some of the other Haloween books. The story is non-linear and rather difficult for children to follow, but it isn’t sophisticated enough for older children.

San Souci, Robert Cinderella Skeleton (2000). Illustrated by David Catrow. San Diego, Harcourt Inc.

Review One

A mother who dies but whose love lives on. A daughter whose beauty proceeds from virtue. Selfish, lazy stepsisters who are, of course, ugly. A stepmother whose wickedness is by now emblematic. A handsome and persistent prince. An ending whose happiness is incidental to its wallop of poetic justice. Even among the fairy tales we hold most dear, ”Cinderella” really delivers. Perhaps this is why a half-dozen versions are published in a single season.

”Cinderella,” written and illustrated by the gifted and prolific K. Y. Craft, adapts its text from English versions by Arthur Rackham and Andrew Lang, both inspired by Charles Perrault’s comparatively treacly telling of the tale. Here, Christian influence redeems the evil stepsisters, who prostrate themselves before the virtuous heroine and are forgiven. This cheats us out of the gruesome satisfactions offered by the Brothers Grimm — big feet butchered to fit a golden slipper, eyes pecked out by pigeons as a reward for falsehood — but this is, after all, a picture book, and Craft’s paintings of a fantastical 17th-century France are opulent enough to satisfy the most demanding consumer of tutus, bows and patent leather.

So much for tradition. ”Cinderella the Dog and Her Little Glass Slipper,” written and illustrated by Diane Goode, is also a vehicle for illustrations, a simplified rendition of Perrault with humans in dog form. Alas for those panting after four rather than two glass slippers, these dogs walk, and waltz, on their hind legs only.

On a less bestial but far creepier note is ”Cinderella Skeleton,” written by Robert D. San Souci and illustrated by David Catrow. A Halloween entry told in rhyme, it makes the obligatory substitutions. A witch replaces the fairy godmother; Cinderella takes a hearse instead of a carriage to the ball; and, at morning’s light, she leaves behind not her shoe but a foot. Catrow’s moldy princess bears a weird resemblance to a Walter Keane waif, and the text features lines like ”Your gleaming skull and burnished bones / Your teeth like polished kidney stones.” ”Cinderella Skeleton” is, thankfully, an unparalleled experience.

Harrison, Kathryn. New York Times [Review of the book Cinderella Skeleton]. Retreived from

Review Two

A very strange Cinderella has unique charm in this macabre version of the familiar story. San Souci tells her tale in a concise, intricate verse form that includes a grisly sense of humor with its vivid description. She is a skeleton, with a witch to transform her pumpkin, etc. and change her rags to fancy gown. Prince Charnel is left with her snapped-off foot bone to match in order to find his lost love for a most unusual happy ending. Catrow’s double page scenes are a fair match for this unusual version, with their contrasting misty hues of glowing pinks and bilious yellows, and broken stone walls with creepy vines and creepier creatures. Of course the main characters, with their costumed skeleton bodies and straggly-haired skulls, steal the show. The happy couple, he in Napoleonic hat and uniform and she with a dandelion sprouting from her head, are the epitome of ghoulish parody, a sure hit with middle schoolers. 2000, Silver Whistle/Harcourt Inc., $16.00. Ages 6 to 12. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz


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