Wednesday, November 5, 2014

[BOOK REVIEW] The Gift of the Crocodile by Judy Sierra

Title:  The Gift of the Crocodile

Author:  Judy Sierra

Artist:  Reynold Ruffins

Genre: Animals / Manners / Fairy Tale

Year Published: 2000

Year Read:  2014

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 6+  (Child Mistreatment)

Now, I have read many different versions of the “Cinderella” fairy tale and they usually have the same set up which includes:

1) The main heroine "Cinderella" has an evil stepsister and stepmother that make her life miserable.
2) "Cinderella" has a "fairy godmother" figure that gives her a new dress and helps her get to the ball.
3) "Cinderella" loses her slipper, which causes the princes to search the entire kingdom to find the maiden who fits the slipper.

So, imagine my surprise that there was finally a version of “Cinderella” that came from Indonesia and I was not disappointed by the results!

In this version of the classic “Cinderella” story, a young girl named Damura once lived a happy life with her mother.  But one day, her mother dies and Damura’s father ended up marrying another woman who happened to have a daughter of her own and at first they treated Damura well, but then they started mistreating her by making her do all the housework.  One day, the prince of the land invited all the young women in the village to dance for him and Damura ends up going to a wise old crocodile who she calls Grandmother Crocodile and the Crocodile acts as a fairy godmother to Damura by giving her a golden sarong and golden slippers to wear at the palace. Once the prince notices Damura at the ball, he immediately wanted to marry her; but of course, Damura was forced to run away from the palace when the rooster started crowing and she accidentally left one of her slippers behind.

Will the Prince find the maiden who wore the slipper and what will Damura’s stepmother and stepsister do if the Prince finds out that Damura is the one dancing at the ball?

Read this book to find out!

I have read many books written by Judy Sierra and I was always intrigued with her ability to retell stories that deal with folktales and myths (especially the brilliant children’s book “The Gruesome Guide to World Monsters)!   So, imagine my surprise when I saw that Judy Sierra had retold an Indonesian folktale that was inspired by the “Cinderella” story and man was I impressed with what I read in this version of the classic “Cinderella” story!  I loved the fact that we finally got a version of the “Cinderella” tale from Indonesia since I rarely read folktales that came from Indonesia and it was nice seeing a different spin on the “Cinderella” tale as this story honestly did give an extremely unique spin on the tale.  I loved the fact that the fairy godmother in this tale is actually a large crocodile that is called “Grandmother Crocodile” as it gave the story a more unique style and I just love the idea about the main characters associating with animal characters in folktales in general.  I also enjoyed learning more about the culture of Indonesia in this story as we get to see the characters dance at the ball and I loved seeing how significant Damura’s sarong is for her character in this story.  Reynold Ruffins’ artwork is truly gorgeous to look at especially of the scenes where the characters are shown in a swamp and you can see the trees tangled up with each other and see how colorful the swamp looks like.  I also loved the images of the characters’ clothing as they look truly exotic and it makes me want to wear the clothing worn by the Indonesians of that time!

The reason why I gave this book a four star rating was because I felt like the pacing of this story was a bit too slow and I often found myself wishing that the story would move on at a much quicker pace to retain my attention.  Also, I felt that the characters were a little too flat as they did not seem to have much personalities other than being stand ins for the characters of the original “Cinderella” story.

Overall, “The Gift of the Crocodile” is a great story for anyone who is a huge fan of the classic “Cinderella” story and who wants to read folktales from other countries such as Indonesia!  I would recommend this book to children ages six and up since there are some Indonesian terms in this book that might confuse smaller children.


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