|Illustration by O'Malley, K.|
Once upon a time, in the suburbs, there lived two girls. They were neighbors, and one would be famous one day, the other, not. The soon-to-be-famous girl was called Cinderella, and the poor thing, “ was forced to work from morning till night, cooking and scrubbing pots and pans and picking up after her cruel stepmother and wicked stepsisters.” The girl who would never be famous was called Cinder Edna, and the experience of hard work was something the girls had in common. They really differed, though, in the way they spent their off hours. Cinderella tended to sigh and feel sorry for herself, and spent her evenings brooding. Cinder Edna “ sang and whistled while she worked. Moreover, she had learned a thing or two from doing all that housework —such as how to make tuna casserole sixteen different ways and how to get spots off everything from rugs to ladybugs.” She even earned extra pocket money doing petcare for the neighbors. Did I mention she taught herself to play the accordion? The girls also differed in looks: Cinderella was a beauty, one of those girls that can wear any old rag and still look fabulous. Cinder Edna, well, she “wasn’t much to look at. But she was strong and spunky and knew some jokes —including an especially funny one about an anteater from Afghanistan. One day news came that the king was having a ball, and everyone was invited. Especially the lovely ladies. Cinderella’s sisters kept her busy from morning till night, stitching new dresses and trying new hair styles for a week ahead of time. Cinder Edna’s sisters made preparations as well. “On the evening of the ball they trimmed their toe nails and flossed their teeth.” Then they jumped into the car and drove away. At Cinderella’s house, a fairy godmother had just appeared and was drying the sooty girl’s tears, telling her that her troubles were over. Cinder Edna had never believed in that sort of thing, and had sensibly planned ahead. “ She had used her cage cleaning money to put a dress on layaway for just these kinds of occasions. ‘And my comfortable loafers will be perfect for dancing!’ she said as she slipped them onto her feet.” Cinderella looked down at the sparkling glass slippers on her feet and wondered how she would manage to walk in them, let alone dance...That’s when she moaned aloud, “But, Fairy Godmother, how will I get to the ball?’ ...Surprised that the [the girl] couldn’t seem to figure anything out for herself,” she did a little magic involving a pumpkin, some mice, and a rat. Meanwhile, Cinder Edna was already halfway there, on the bus. When Cinderella arrived, everyone was so surprised by her appearance, and so impressed with her good looks that they all stared at her, making her feel incredibly self conscious. When the prince came over to ask her to dance, all she could do was to bob her head, No. “ She was afraid of mussing her hair, and she knew those fragile glass slippers would break if she danced too hard. “ So when Cinder Edna came in a moment later no one noticed. She went straight to the refreshment table and helped herself. That’s when the prince came over: one of his official duties was to greet people. Cinder Edna made polite conversation, or at least she was polite while the prince told her about being a prince. It was, apparently, “Quite fantastic! Mostly I review the troops and sit around on the throne looking brave and wise.” Then he turned his most handsome profile towards her. If he hadn’t been the prince, she would have snorted right out loud! Was he kidding? She finished her punch, and the prince politely took her glass. And threw it into the garbage. That’s when Cinder Edna heard a voice. “ Excuse me, but we recycle plastic around here.” The prince rolled his eyes. “Just ignore him. He’s my younger brother, Rupert, and he lives in a cottage in the back and runs the recycling plant and a home for orphaned kittens.” Rupert had a very nice voice, thought Cinder Edna, and fished her plastic cup out of the trash. “Would you like to dance?’ asked Rupert. [They] danced and danced. They did the Storybook Stomp and the Cinnamon Twist. They did the Worm and the Fish. They boogied and woogied. At last they stopped for a round of punch. Edna learned that Rupert (1) loved tuna casserole, (2) played the concertina, (3) knew some good jokes. She told him one about the anteater from Afghanistan, and he told her the one about the banana from Barbados.” But suddenly, the clock began to strike twelve, and both girls yelped and yelled aloud. “ Oh! The Magic spell disappears at midnight!” cried Cinderella. “Oh! The buses stop running at midnight!” called Cinder Edna, and they ran for the door. Both princes took off after them, and in their haste, succeeded only in knocking each other to the ground. Prince Randolph moaned, “Look what you made me do. The only girl I’ve ever loved, and now she’s gone. “ But Prince Rupert sputtered with irritation. In the collision, his glasses had fallen, and shattered. He couldn’t see a darn thing. “Well, didn’t you get her name? The one I love is called Edna.” Prince Randolph scratched his head, and said, no, he hadn’t thought to ask. That’s when he saw the shoes. One was “a scuffed up loafer. The othe a dainty glass slipper. ‘These should definitely be recycled.” said Rupert. Each brother had a plan to find the girls. Randolph was going to go house to house with the glass slipper to see whose foot it fit. Rupert did a search on girls named Edna, then went to each of their homes for an interview. He asked each to list the tuna casserole recipes she knew. Both searches seemed to be in vain. As they arrived at the last two houses on the block, a smile broke over Randolph’s face. He “noticed a woman in rags, sitting forlornly among the cinders in the corner. Something about her seeemed familiar, and when the shoe fit, she wore it, along with its mate, which she drew from her pocket. Meanwhile, Edna had been out back, mowing the lawn. When she came to the front to hear what all the commotion was about and saw the prince”her heart almost stopped.” Rupert gazed blearily around, for “without his glasses, Cinder Edna looked something like a large plate of mashed potatoes.” But when Edna asked him if he’d heard the one about the kangaroo from Kalamazoo, he recognized her at once. Both brothers proposed and both Ella and Edna accepted. They were married in a double wedding, and, after things had settled down, adjusted to marital living. Cinderella spent her days trying not to yawn while she listened to her husband make speeches all day, and her nights listening to him brag about the army. But Edna and Rupert “ ended up in small cottage with solar heating. During the day [Edna]studied waste disposal engineering and cared for orphaned kittens. And at night, she and her husband laughed and joked, tried new recipes together, and played duets on the accordion and concertina. Guess who lived happily ever after?”
Notes: This is a very silly story with a great moral: girls, you don't need a man, you just need a good toolbox! Ellen Jackson's text and Kevin O'Malley's spot-on illustrations offer a refreshing plain-old-every-day-magic cure for the blues. The message for girls and boys seems to be that a good attitude, an open mind, and a sense of humor will carry you through hard times. Sure, life can be hard, but that's all the more reason to follow your bliss and develop your talents. Also, you never know when a good joke is going to come in handy! Interesting to note that Cinder Edna does have an indirect animal helper: it is by cleaning her neighbor's parrot cage that she earns money for her dress, proving again that Cinderella and birds go together like a horse and carriage.
Montessori Connection 6-9: Language/ Jokes and Riddles
Children who are of this age typically love jokes and riddles. When my youngest son was six years old and discovered riddles I had to go out an buy him a brand new riddle book. I knew all the answers to every riddle he could think of: his older three siblings had worn them out on me already. Struggling readers are often inspired by jokes and riddles. A good riddle book and two six or seven year olds is a great combination! They can take turns reading riddles or jokes to each other, and guessing the answers.
Montessori Connection 9-12: Math/Money and Goal Setting
1. Think about what Cinder Edna accomplished in this story by earning a little money and setting it aside. 2. Make a list of the chores both girls do in the story. ( washing clothes, cooking tuna casserole, mowing lawns, etc.) 3. In a small group, brainstorm about a goal you would like to accomplish during this school year. It should be something that can be accomplished mostly by yourselves. It can be a community service goal, such as raising $100 to donate to a charity, or it can be an educational goal for yourselves. Maybe there is a museum you want to visit, a trip to the symphony or opera you would like to take, or another special event. 4. After you have agreed on the project, discuss it with your teacher and work out a step by step plan, including a time table. 5. Calculate how much the project will cost, and how much each of you needs to earn. Example: Four of you have decided to raise $100 to donate to a local organization that helps cats and dogs find homes. Do the math: $100 ÷ 4 = $25. 6. Decide how you will earn the money. Example: Make tuna casseroles as a class project. Wrap them in foil and freeze them. Sell them to parents for $5 or $10 each. Example: Ask your mom or dad if they will hire you to wash the family's dishes or do some loads of laundry. Before you ask how much you will earn for the chore, do it one time, and watch the clock. When you know how long it takes, and your parents know you can do the job well, negotiate a price.