Domitila is not only "sweeter than a cactus bloom in early spring," she is also a talented cook and an amazing leather artist. most of the classical elements of a Cinderella story can be found in Domitila. A gentle weaving of her mother's nurturing with strong family traditions is the secret ingredient for Domitila to rise above hardship to eventually become the Governor's bride. Moreover, with a firm belief in simplicity and realism, Domitila makes a lasting impression as a triumphant Cinderella in her humility, service, and unassuming modesty.
Unlike most ivory tower Cinderellas, the only transformation in this story is Timoteo's—Domitila's suitor—as we watch him mature from an arrogant politician's son to a compassionate family man. There is no glass slipper to fight over, and no fairy godmother to save the day. All Domitila has are her innate qualities and her family legacy. Finally, the readers are invited to get to know Cinderella for who she is, unlike the typical fantasy character!
With love and care in every stroke, McLennan captured on canvas the warmth of relationships, the fondness for color and texture, and the versatile patterns characteristic of the Mexican people. Readers will soon fall in love with the shimmering light of the desert landscape and this well-told story of Cinderella-with-a-twist.
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Grade 2-5-Young Domitila is an exceptionally talented and loving girl, able to cook, work leather, or make adobe with equal acumen. When torrential rains and her mother's illness make it necessary for her to look for work, she finds employment as a cook at the governor's mansion. Her culinary expertise gains her the attention of the governor's selfish son, Timoteo, who is distressed when she is called home to witness her mother's death. Despite the fact that his only clue to Domitila's whereabouts is a piece of beautifully tooled leather from her sandal, Timoteo sets out to find her, determined to eat her cooking again. As the story progresses, a subplot tells of the girl's malicious and manipulative new stepmother, who plans to marry her own daughter to the eligible young man. In a twist on more traditional versions, the fairy godmother here is the protagonist's memory of her mother, and the real transformation is not hers, but Timoteo's, who becomes loving and kind in the process of his search. Despite the fact that Domitila's face looks different from picture to picture, the full-page oil-on-canvas illustrations are bright, sumptuous, and visually enticing. The text is bordered by proverbs rendered in both Spanish and English. Well-written and strongly illustrated, this tale is a solid addition to the canon of New-World Cinderella stories, such as Robert San Souci's Cendrillon (S & S, 1998) and Joe Hayes's Little Gold Star/Estrellita de oro (Cinco Puntos, 2000).
Ann Welton, Terminal Park Elementary School, Auburn, WA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 3^-5, younger for reading aloud. There are no glass slippers in this tale based on folklore from Hidalgo, Mexico, but elements of the Cinderella story remain. When her mother grows ill, Domitila, a skilled cook and craftswoman, takes a job at the governor's house. Timoteo, the governor's son, loves her exceptional dishes, but Domitila's mother dies, and she returns home before Timoteo meets her. He travels the state, asking locals about "the girl who can make delicacies from desert weeds," and meets evil Malvina, who schemes to marry Domitila's grieving father and present her own lazy daughter to Timoteo as the woman he seeks. Luckily, Timoteo meets Domitila by chance, and the expected happy ending ensues: love, marriage, and new life in the governor's house. Both the text and Connie McLennan's oil illustrations tell the story satisfactorily, though children will probably skip over the heavy-handed, bilingual aphorisms framing each text box. Young readers will enjoy comparing this moralistic story with the familiar fairy tale, and will come away with an expanded sense of the region's landscape and culture. A brief glossary and a recipe are appended. Gillian Engberg
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