Southwest Children's Literature

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Little Gold Star/Estrellita de oro: A Cinderella Cuento

Book Review:

"Si hoy nos da sopitas de miel
Mañana nos dará sopitas de hiel."*

This variation of the Cinderella fairy tale, set in the mountainous region of northern New Mexico, begins with the death of Arcía's (Cinderella's) mother. She encourages her father to marry their neighbor, the widow Margarita, who has two daughters and always treats Arcía nicely. Her father warns Arcía:

"Today, Margarita is so sweet and kind,
But her sweetness will turn bitter with time."

Arcía insists, her father relents and the marriage follows. Soon, father's worries are confirmed. When he leaves for the summer to tend his sheep, Arcía's stepmother and stepdaughters treat her horribly. When papa returns, oblivious to the changes in the household, he gives a sheep to each of the girls. Arcía's sheep thrives under her care. She has papá shear her sheep so that she can weave him a sweater. When she takes the wool to the river to wash it, a hawk swoops down and snatches it from Arcía. Respectfully, she asks for the wool back and is rewarded with a gold star that floats down and attaches to her forehead.

Her sisters are jealous of Arcía's star and want their own. Their lack of respect and incivility result in the hawk's sticking a donkey ear on one stepdaughter's forehead and a green horn on the other. The tale continues with the announcement of a big party to be given at the palace by the prince in hopes of finding a bride. Arcía is left at home but slips away and makes her way to the palace where the light from her little gold star causes everyone to pause and stare. The prince tries to meet her but Arcía runs back home in fright. The prince conducts a house to house search the next day, finds Arcía, falls in love instantly, and they are soon married, living happily ever after.

The book's illustrations complement the tale as they depict the high desert communities and mountains of northern New Mexico. The simple drawings capture the essence of the people, their clothing, furniture, homes and vegetation.

The book is useful for a study of the fairy tale genre, allowing students to think about how changes in geography, historical era, and culture change the tale. Students can come to appreciate the unique stamp such alterations provide to the story. There is fertile opportunity here for comparison and contrast with other versions of Cinderella.

This is an excellent choice for educators as a read aloud, especially for the bilingual audience. Having the Spanish and English versions of the fairy tale side by side enhances the richness of the story. Joe Hayes, the reteller of the tale, also includes several notes for readers about his research prior to retelling this version of the Cinderella cuento.

*Though she gives us bread pudding with honey today,
Tomorrow she'll give us bread pudding with gall.

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