Reviewed by Leigh Adamkiewicz

As anyone who was forced to watch Barney can tell you, it’s tricky to keep a child-friendly story from becoming mind-numbing. This is especially true of any tale that has been as told to death… or has an something to teach. But those who are looking for a classic story in a different setting might be pleasantly surprised with Fawzia Gilani’s Cinderella: An Islamic Tale. Not only does this lovely picture book rise to the Attention Span Challenge, it tells its story in a very refreshing way.

In modern retellings Cinderella’s story is often co-opted to showcase materialism as proof of the heroine’s birthright. Of course Cinderella’s a good person. She’s just been given a Fendi bag. And a pink Valentino ballgown! And the shoes! Dear God, I think they’re Jimmy Choos!

It was refreshing to see a good soul as Cinderella’s best reward rather than a bespangled ball gown. She’s given lovely clothes to wear to the ball, but they are not the be-all and end all of her personality. The prince’s eye may be caught by her beauty but his heart is captured by her faith. The king and queen don’t send out the shoe because they think Cinderella will look good on their son’s arm, but because they know a devout, clear-eyed mind is a prize in and of itself.

For those whose knowledge of Islam is non-existent, the book provides a glossary to the vocabulary words sprinkled throughout the story. While the placement of one or two of these vocabulary words might be awkward, the journey back to the glossary is never an unwelcome one.

The colors in Shireen Adams’ illustrations are exactly what they should be: lush, sweet and lovely. The rainbow of greens and blue gives a sense of the world beyond pulling Cinderella from the dry brown walls of her small, cruel world. And the little hits of foil on the ubiquitous shoes are a light, delightful touch. The pencils themselves are a bit sophomoric, the work of a person with enough study to be an excellent student, but not a master yet. But these occasional technical issues never distract enough to interrupt the soothing flow of this quiet tale.

It’s easy to feel a sense of peace after completing Fawzia Gilani’s Cinderella. This humble version of the classic fairy tale is a gentle reminder that victory comes as much from a peaceful soul as a beautiful dress and a dramatic confrontation.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Leigh is a fearless writer who never met a genre, subject, or format she didn’t like. She has written professionally for the past six years and enjoys biking, exploring odd corners of Northeast Ohio, and discovering those good books she hasn’t read yet.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by The Islamic Foundation. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.