My two daughters have always enjoyed traditional fairy tales and can pretty much retell all of the well known ones without any problems. As much as they like these stories though, they much prefer modern day fairy tales which always seem to have an original and comical slant on the stories they are based on. One such story which is definitely one of my six year old's favourites is Prince Cinders by Babette Cole.
This is a fabulously funny picture book that tells the story of our hero Prince Cinders who lives with his three big hairy brothers who make him do all the work while they go to the Palace Discos with their girlfriends. Prince Cinders (who is very small and weedy) wishes that he could be big and hairy too and it looks like his wish may just be granted when he is helped by a dirty fairy who comes down the chimney! She attempts to take a baked bean can into a smart sports car. His raggy clothes into a suit and make the prince big and hairy too. Unfortunately her magic spells do not exactly go according to plan - the car is tiny, the suit is a swim suit and Prince Cinders looks like an enormous hairy monster.
However, he does not realise this because when he looks in the mirror, his reflection is a handsome prince! He sets off to the palace disco using his car as a skate board. He meets a pretty princess who thinks that she is about to be attacked by a great big hairy monster. Luckily though, at that very moment, midnight strikes and Prince Cinders is turned back into himself and the princess thinks that he has saved her. He is too embarrassed to be seen as he normally is and runs away but as he does so he leaves his skinny jeans behind leading to a kingdom wide search to find the owner. Eventually Prince Cinders is found and on discovering that the jeans fit, the lovely Princess Lovelypenny proposes to him and they both live happily ever after! Now, did that remind you of any other stories that you might know??
I think that this is a fabulously fun story and very clever too with all the parallels between Prince Cinders and Cinderella. My daughter actually tells me that it is 'the funniest book ever'! She really does get the joke and realise that it is even funnier because it is based on the traditional tale that she already knows. We love the way that so many of the ideas are really zany and the fact that the prince is such a wimp and also that instead of a fairy godmother we get a dirty fairy that is totally inept. It's all brilliantly put together, and as an adult I probably appreciate it even more than my daughter.
The language and sentence structure is very accessible which makes it easy for my daughter to read independently although she loves to share it too and can often be heard reading to her younger sister.
The story is accompanied by some wonderful illustrations too that are all very humourous. As the book was first published in 1987 you might think that the pictures might look a bit dated but I don't think that they do - except for the absence of a few mobile phones I suppose. There is lots of lovely detail in each illustration and it is definitely worth spending time looking over each one.
Overall this is an excellent story and picture book that has stood the test of time well. It's a lot of fun and I am sure that most children will love reading it many times. It is available on Amazon for £4.98 although it can also be bought used for as little as one pence. I notice that there is also a DVD animation of the story which I am sure my daughter will love.
Most of us are familiar with the fairy tale all about Cinderella. Babette Cole has challenged this traditional tale and given it a completely different slant..........she's even changed the sex of Cinders, hence the title 'Prince Cinders'.
~ Babette Cole ~
Born in Jersey, Babette attended a convent school and went on to take a degree at Art School in Canterbury.
She began her career drawing for Jackanory and TV comics. Her first book was published in 1976 and since then she has written more than 70, the most famous perhaps being 'Mummy Laid An Egg'.
Babette Cole is renowned for her funny, witty and rather unconventional approach to children's books.
For more information visit the official website at www.babette-cole.com
~ The story ~
Prince Cinders isn't much of a prince being small, spotty, scruffy and skinny, very unlike his three big hairy brothers who are always teasing him about his looks.
The brothers spend their time going out with princesses while Cinders is left at home to clean up, wishing he looked just like them!! (God knows why!!)
A Fairy Godmother arrived and grants all of his wishes which do go a bit wrong:
* the empty can turns in to a toy sports car.
* the suit is a swimsuit!
* big and hairy.............he turns in to a huge gorilla.
But Cinders can't see how bad he looks, he sees a mirror image of his brothers whom he idolises and off to the disco he goes.............not being able to get through the door he decides to catch the bus home and terrifies a princess.
Just then it turns midnight and he changes back to his usual self which looks a bit like the character from the 'Mr Muscle' adverts. The princess thinks CInders has scared the hairy monkey away and chases after him because he's too shy to talk to her and he loses his jeans.
She puts out a proclamation to find the owner of the trousers..........many try them, none fit them, until they fit Cinders. The princess proposes, Cinders accepts and a twist of fate becomes the hairy brothers...........let's just say they end up looking like Freddie Mercury in the 'I want to break free' video!!
~ Illustrations ~
Prince Cinders does challenge stereotypes of the handsome prince syndrome..........he's skinny, a tad on the ugly side and is basically not a 'good catch' whatever that may be (I no longer know who is and who isn't)
The Fairy Godmother isn't in a beautiful dress but is in a litle girl's school uniform a bit like St Trinians! And as for his brothers, well let's just say in my opinion these aren't great looking chaps.
The drawings are very detailed and Babette Cole has challenged all aspects of the traditional Fairy Tale of Cinderella.
~ Age Range ~
I have read this book to a wide range of age groups. Nursery and Reception children don't seem to appreciate the twist to the original story..........the little girls tend (not 100%) to be a bit upset that the Fairy Godmother isn't in her gorgeous pretty dress etc
In my teaching experience it has been the slightly older age group, 6/7 upwards who have appreciated the humour and twist and can discuss more openly the differences between this and the original Cinderella.
~ Different Viewpoints ~
There has been a great deal of analysis and discussion about Babette Cole's books over the years between different groups. I have listed some of the viewpoints and you can take your pick as to which category you would belong to and therefore would or would not read this book:
* If you are concerned about exposing children solely to traditional fairy tales then this book does give an opposing viewpoint as it challenges the idea of tall, dark handsome princes and gorgeous princesses in exotic ballgowns!
* Some like the idea that rather than the prince searching for the princess, in this book it is the other way round and the female proposing to the male.
* Some people would argue that it's a confidence building book in the sense that the 'weakling' (Cinders) gets the princess over his stronger, supposedly more handsome brothers.
Just a few of the arguments surrounding this book which I think Babette Cole appreciates as she likes to challenge and create a little bit of contoversy, plus it helps increase her sales as discussion leads to more people wanting to buy the book to see what it's all about.
In my opinion (not sitting on the fence) we must remember that it's a witty children's book with a different slant. As long as you don't make too much of it and have large debates about the pros and cons of females taking the lead role etc..
Older children do find it quite humorous, perhaps adults 'read' too much in to things and are way too analytical and as long as you read a huge range of other genres of books children will most definitely not be affected by this.
It certainly isn't my first choice of book but I do think that it's important to give children an extremely wide range of styles and stories.
~ Price ~
My paperback has a purple background unlike the photo shown by dooyoo. It's ISBN is 0-14-055525-0 and cost £4.99 however amazon have used and new ones from just 20p.
This book is also available in hardcover from £1.43.
A DVD and VHS tape of the story are also available.
~ Other Babette Cole Books ~
Princess Smartypants Rules
Hair in Funny Places
Two of Everything
The trouble with Dad
The Trouble with Mum
Take a classic story, substitute a few key ingredients, season freely with silliness and imagination, dress it all up in jaunty illustrations, and what have you got? In the case of Cole's Prince Cinders, an outrageously funny romp of a picture book. Prince Cinders is a spotty, skinny fellow who envies his brothers' brawn and hairiness. Left behind to do the laundry while they zoom off to the Palace Disco, he is visited one evening by a fairy who seeks to grant his wishes. Trouble is, the fairy hasn't quite gotten the knack of spell-casting and big and hairy translates into an oversized ape. Blissfully unaware of the slip-up, Prince Cinders heads off in his new incarnation to the Rock 'n' Royal Bash to claim his princessa conventional end he achieves through most unconventional means. A madcap, highly entertaining spoof. Ages 5-8.