Review: The Orphan by Anthony L. Manna


The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece by Anthony L. Manna & Soula Mitakidou, illustrated by Giselle Porter

This story of Cinderella has a distinct Greek twist to it.  In the author note at the beginning of the book, they state that the tale is drawn from two Greek versions of Cinderella.  One change that was made from the traditional stories is that Cinderella takes a more modern and active stance than she had in previous versions.  It is the story of a girl who loses her devoted mother and then has a stepmother and two stepsisters who take her father’s attention, love and money.  She weeps at her mother’s grave and is encouraged by her mother’s spirit to have hope and wait for blessings to appear.  They arrive in the form of Mother Nature and her children, who give Cinderella the Evening Star as a headpiece, dresses, and shoes.  Instead of a ball, this Cinderella meets her prince in church and in disguise, riding there on a white mare made of clouds.  She loses her shoe when leaving the church after the prince tries to capture her by making the threshold sticky.  All is revealed when the shoe fits.

This is a very satisfying version of the story with a spiritual tone that is not in the more familiar version.  Cinderella’s connection with her dead mother is much stronger here as well, having her turn to that guidance rather than a fairy godmother deepens the story considerably.  Also connecting her dresses, shoes and crown to nature is an adroit move. 

Porter’s illustrations have a folktale feel to them with a traditional grounding in the style.  At the same time, they have a rather ethereal quality as well, a lightness and wonder that infuses them.  It is a pleasing combination.

While we don’t really need more versions of the Cinderella tale, this one has a unique appeal and a very different feel.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade Books.