Don’t Cook Cinderella by Francesca Simon has been my son’s latest choice of reading book at school this week. I admit that when he brought it home to read to me, I was somewhat trepidatious. My only experience of Francesca Simon so far has been through Horrid Henry, who I loathe. This book, however made a refreshing change – and Oscar has zipped through the whole book in less than a week, often reading on where I would have been happy to stop, just because he has been enjoying the story so much.
The book tells the story of a school with an infants and a juniors class. The infants class is populated by good fairy story characters, Snow White, Cinderella, Jack (Jack and the Beanstalk) etc. The infant class teacher is Miss Good Fairy. The junior class is full of bad characters like, the Wicked Witch, the Troll etc, and overseen by Miss Bad Fairy.
Miss Good Fairy tries to teach her class about kindness and sharing, and being friends and looking after each other, as well as reading and writing. Miss Bad Fairy teaches her class about brutality and cruelty and mainly how they can eat the infants.
This book is full of silly situations which Oscar has greatly enjoyed reading. He has acted out lots of dialogue for me with all the appropriate voices. He has made up tunes for the various songs the characters sing in the playground. He has really been able to immerse himself in the world of the book.
It is a perfect transitional or chapter book. The chapters are short. The words are not too complex, the font is large and easy to read, and with the illustrations there is plenty of blank space on the page. It still looks like a proper book, and the fact that it has nearly ninety pages made my son very happy when he had read them all. Number of pages is a big deal with a lot of children.
Being read to, I appreciated the way that Simon has fused two genres, the fairy tale and the school story. I liked the way that her story showed a great knowledge of traditional story telling, and that there were lots of clues for the children to unravel and pick up on that could allow them to keep thinking about and discussing the story long after the book has been finished. There was a certain amount of moral ambiguity in the story that I also appreciated. I felt rather sorry for the troll, even though he was bad, and Snow White was fairly insufferable, which pleased me rather.
The book is suitable for boys and girls. I recommend it for ages six and up, and it would make a perfect classroom story if you were doing a project on fairy stories, which we sometimes do at school. It would also be interesting to use with older classes to look at things like narrative and our expectations of it.