CINDERELLA PENGUIN: OR, THE LITTLE GLASS FLIPPER
Volume 20 Number 6
Animator/illustrator Janet Perlman's first picture-book is rooted in the familiar. It is based on her 1982 National Film Board children's film called The Tender Tail of Cinderella Penguin, still available on videocassette within a collection entitled Fables and Fantasy, Volume 1. It is easy to see why this entertaining 10-minute film won a number of awards, including the Parents' Choice Award for Best Children's Video and an Academy Award nomination. The story is told entirely through clever animation and beautifully expressive music, one a perfect complement to the other.
And although somewhat colloquialized, this book version, entitled more simply Cinderella Penguin, is still obviously recognizable as a retelling of the traditional fairy-tale. Of course, certain modifications are necessary, since all the characters are penguins (e.g., the glass flipper in place of the glass slipper)! Author Perlman's penchant for penguins explains her preoccupation, but what about the audience?
This book is probably not for traditionalists. The penguins add a definitive humour and irreverence that appeal to young children. The expressiveness and detail within the illustrations retain the same lively quality that made the film version so enjoyable. The vibrance and clarity of the colours, achieved by using animation techniques in painting the illustrations, are what draw children to the book and sustain their attention. The text is secondary. Although it does not detract from the story, the narrative does not uphold any of the quirkiness of the characters or their predicaments.
For all the book's plusses, it does not tell as captivating a story as the film version, nor could I recommend the book as a fairy-tale retelling. But pre-school to grade 2 children will enjoy the silliness inherent in personifying penguins and seeing them brought to life with such vibrance.
Jane Robinson is a former teacher in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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