I work at a public library, and I recently perused the New Books shelf in our children’s department to see if there was anything worth bringing home to read with my second grade daughter. There was a new Jane Yolen title I didn’t know about, and also Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Meg Hunt. My wife and daughter and I read it aloud that evening, and it is now among my favorite children’s books.
Interstellar Cinderella completely subverts the original Cinderella fairy tale to make it a story of empowerment, giving Cinderella agency, skill, and a goal much more exciting than young marriage to a man she hardly knows. Cinderella is a genius mechanic, as it turns out, and can fix anything. When her evil stepmother and stepsisters leave her home from the Royal Space Parade, they never imagine she’ll be able to fix an old space ship (with some help from her fairy godrobot and her trusty socket wrench) and make it to the party. She does, and she fixes the Prince’s broken down rocket ship along the way.
The prince begins searching everywhere for the owner of the socket wrench left behind when the job was finished, and arrives at the home of Cinderella and her mean housemates. He devises a test in which each young woman must try to fix a broken space craft. Her stepsisters prove incapable, but Cinderella shows up, claims her socket wrench, and passes the Prince’s test. He proposes marriage, and it’s here Cinderella delivers one of my favorite rhymes in all of children’s lit:
“She thought this over carefully.
Her family watched in panic.
‘I’m far too young for marriage
but I’ll be your chief mechanic!'”
Cinderella then takes her new job overseeing a fleet of starships, and I fall madly in love with this story of a competent, talented girl with spirit and confidence who would rather have her dream job than some convoluted and rushed underage romance. I’m adding this to my list of books to buy friends who have baby girls, along with Neil Gaiman’s Blueberry Girl and Jane Yolen’s Not All Princesses Dress in Pink. The book is delightfully written and beautifully illustrated, and seriously, she tells him she’s too young to get married but she’d love to be chief mechanic of his starfleet. My Kaylee-loving heart!
If you have kids (of any gender), you need to find this book pronto.