cover image The Gift of the Crocodile: A Cinderella Story

The Gift of the Crocodile: A Cinderella Story

Judy Sierra. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, $17.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-82188-2

Setting this colorful story in the Spice Islands, Sierra (Nursery Tales Around the World) incorporates motifs found in Cinderella folktales from various parts of the world as well as elements of Diamonds and Toads-type fables. Overworked by her conniving stepmother and stepsister, Damura one day loses her tattered sarong in the river. When a crocodile responds to her pleas for help, Damura remembers her late mother's advice to treat wild creatures with respect. She talks politely with Grandmother Crocodile, who fetches for her ""a silver sarong that sparkled like the night sky."" Damura's deceitful stepsister soon pretends she has lost a sarong, too, in hopes of receiving an equally lovely new one, but the crocodile gives her a sarong that turns into a filthy rag swarming with leeches. Later, when the prince invites all the young women to dance for him at the palace, the crocodile produces a sarong of pure gold for Damura, plus slippers to match. A few departures from the standard Cinderella story will keep readers on their toes. Sierra's confident delivery finds its match in Ruffins's (Running the Road to ABC) primitivist acrylic art, which captures the lush vegetation, sparkling multitoned waters and the people's patterned clothing while retaining an essential calm and spareness. Strategic use of spot art and small silhouettes in addition to full-page and full-spread compositions creates a visual syncopation. Even with an abundance of available Cinderella stories, this version is memorably vivid. Ages 4-8. (Nov.)