Monday, June 05, 2006

Book Review: Bella at Midnight

Bella at Midnight is a lovely retelling of the Cinderella story. Cinderella has been around in various forms for centuries, but it still resonates today, as evidenced by the many modern versions. In spite of all these versions, Diane Stanley still manages to bring something new to the story. One of the best things about this version is the characters. Far from the flat, uninteresting characters in the original versions, the characters in this story are real people, who have problems and make mistakes and learn and grow. The chapters alternate between different points of view, which gives us a chance to get to know each character. Even the stepmother isn't evil; she's got some pretty devastating problems of her own to deal with, and unfortunately she takes them out on Bella. The way she treats Bella isn't right, but at least it's a little more understandable. The prince is a real person, too, who is essentially good but makes mistakes as he learns to be himself and not be taken in by, and take advantage of, the trappings of power. But best of all is Bella herself. The original Cinderella is a bit passive, winning the prince mainly due to her goodness and with some magical help. But Bella is a strong, interesting character who takes the initiative to do what needs to be done, while still retaining the innocence and goodness of the original.

The death of a kitten early in the story may be distressing to some children. The times are harsh, and some bad things happen; Bella witnesses some of the horrors of war, and another girl loses her father to a shipwreck.

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