cover image BOUND


Donna Jo Napoli, . . S&S/Atheneum, $16.95 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-689-86175-8

Napoli (The Magic Circle ) takes the Cinderella story back to its roots in China, where the search for the right foot to fit the symbolic glass slipper takes on new meaning. The author sets the tale during the 14th-century reign of Emperor Hung-wu, when it was customary to bind girls' feet in order to make them more attractive as marriage prospects. While remaining true to the fairytale elements, Napoli endows each character here with three dimensions: the stepmother, for instance, is the number two wife of a recently deceased master potter, so she, understandably, puts her own daughter's welfare ahead of that of her stepdaughter, Xing Xing. The girl bears no ill will toward her stepsister, Wei Ping, but rather feels compassion for her as Wei Ping goes through the painful process of foot-binding. Through Napoli's masterly third-person narrative, told from Xing Xing's perspective, readers acquire an understanding of the events right along with the heroine. The author incorporates spiritual beliefs when a blind raccoon kit ("What terrible thing could a person do in one life to make it come back as a blind raccoon kit?" Xing Xing wonders) wounds Wei Ping, and a beautiful, gentle carp seems to watch over Xing Xing as she journeys to find a remedy for her stepsister. Even the form the godmother takes here is smoothly integrated into Xing Xing's spiritual journey. Napoli manages to grant Xing Xing an independence that remains authentic to her time, and creates both an adventure and a coming-of-age story that will have readers racing to the finish. Ages 12-up. (Nov.)