Move over Prince Charming, for Cinderella and a Mouse Called Fred (Anne Schwartz, $18.99, 9780593480038). Deborah Hopkinson (a frequent contributor to BookPage) and Paul O. Zelinsky’s queer retelling of the age-old Cinderella tale centers on a tiny gray mouse living in a pumpkin patch. The kind Cinderella (or “Ella,” as her friends call her) gives him his name, Fred. A grumpy fairy godmother turns Fred into a horse so that Ella can go to the big ball. The prince, however, is a brat, and Ella heads home at midnight—but not until she grabs some seeds from the pumpkin that had been her carriage. Later, she watches as the prince tries to fit her glass slipper onto her stepsisters’ feet. “I’ll find my own destiny, thank you very much,” Ella says to Fred.
The following spring, Ella plants the pumpkin seeds, and one grows to a splendid size. At the fair, she wins a blue ribbon and meets her future wife: another young farmer “who fell madly in love with Ella, just as she was.”
Zelinsky combines bustling, full-bleed spreads with an eye-catching palette marked by various shades of pink and—naturally—the deep orange of pumpkins. The masterfully composed spread in which Fred transforms into a horse at the tip of the fairy godmother’s magic wand is especially striking. And Hopkinson’s characters sparkle on the page: The fairy godmother is a hoot, Fred is charming and Ella possesses a refreshing amount of spunk. The text is funny (“Seriously?” says Ella, “Glass high heels?”), and the abundant dialogue flows seamlessly, making this spirited and romantic retelling a great choice for storytimes and classroom reader’s theater activities.