Elspeth Lorraine

Book Reviews

April 12, 2024

"Cinderella and a Mouse Called Fred” By Deborah Hopkinson and Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky

Did the world really need another Cinderella story? After all, Brandy and Whitney gave us the blessing of the best film version. This question came to me when I saw this particular title, but if you know my art then you know I love a mouse. (Also Paul won the 1998 Caldecott Medal for U.S. picture book illustration so I trusted he would paint a good mouse. Spoiler alert: He did.) And thus this book came home with me to find out if it was on Whitney & Brandy's level.

Cinderella lives with her mean stepmother and stepsisters inside a house. Fred is a mouse that lives outside in the garden. He enjoys watching Cinderella grow her soon to be prize winning pumpkins. One evening Cinderella’s grouchy fairy godmother comes to turn a pumpkin into a carriage and Fred into a carriage horse! After a fashion change for Cinderella, she rides to the ball and enjoys dancing with the prince until he scoffs at her garden hobby. In a rage at his ignorant garden themed rudeness, Ella loses one glass shoe, smashes the other and storms home after wrecking the pumpkin carriage. The next day Fred and Cinderella hide in the garden behind some brussel sprouts as the prince has her stepsisters try on her missing glass slipper. In a twist I never saw coming, Ella uses the pumpkin seeds from the smashed pumpkin carriage to plant a perfect pumpkin, win the state prize and marry the lady farmer who got second place! Turns out the world did need another Cinderella story and Deborah and Paul came through. 

Bits and Pieces: The artwork was drawn piecemeal in ink, then scanned and assembled with colors and more lines added digitally. There was a small ladybug to find on almost every page which was lots of fun. Deborah wrote some new classic lines to the story that made me giggle including, “he’d shot her a glance that he hoped was kind, curious and fabulously Fred-ish.” Or when the fairy godmother informs Cinderella she doesn’t have coachmen and she’ll need to drive herself Ella replies “It’s all good”. 

Not Sure About: The wicked stepsisters and stepmother were truly hideous to behold. 

Favorite Part: When Cinderella and the Prince danced he pulled out some fab maracas to shake which I respected. Fred hoped that Cinderella would name her prize pumpkin Fred after him, which I thought seemed fair. But she didn't.

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