|Illustrated by Dyer, J.|
Once upon a time, in a tree with golden leaves, “two magpies kept a cozy nest crammed with the toys they loved the best, a Girl Scout pin, a crystal bell (cracked, but you could hardly tell), and a gold ring that shone so bright the magpies kept it out of sight. (The mamma magpie loved to wear it on her tail but wouldn’t share it.)” The birds’ "specialty was shiny paper....You should have seen their scissors caper...”
Well, the nest of these two happened to be outside the window of a merchant with a new wife, who nagged him day and night. The little birds had salvaged some treasures tossed out by this new woman in the house: “ The tree in which they kept their store stood close behind the kitchen door, not far from where they’d found the ring. The girl who scrubbed the pots and pans wore nothing bright on her rough hands...” The birds loved to hear her sing, and the way she reminded them of a bird. “ Her hair is black as as magpie’s wings, She lights the stove and draws the water, Her father’s weak, her mother’s dead. Nobody tucks her into bed. This stepsister they love to hate, let’s make her our adopted daughter.” It happened that an invitation came to the house, and the merchant watched his wife open it: “ He’d never seen her so excited. ‘An invitation from the palace for Flora Ann and Fanny Alice. The prince is looking for a bride!” Now these two set Cinderella to trimming and ironing their party wear: “ Mend my gown! Clean my shoe, before I kick you black and blue!” That’s when the “mamma magpie cocked her head, admired her glossy wing and said,’ Let’s make a dress as bright as water to fit our featherless young daughter’....they glued and gathered, poked and pinched rose petal tissue, silver thread. They pleated petticoats. They cinched...” a jeweled waist. “They trimmed the sleeves with golden leaves” and made “a ruby purse with silver handles, and strapless, backless silver sandals.” They flitted in through an open window and left it for Cinderella: “ “The dress I’ve dreamed of— just my size! Whoever sent this,’she cried, ‘a hundred thanks, a thousand more....She put it on, and every fold fitted and gathered her in gold. The kitchen clock chimed half past eight. She rode the bannister downstairs so fast she nearly lost a shoe. ‘Dear sisters wait, I’m coming too!” But those girls took one look at Cinderella and turned on her shrieking, “You little thief you stole that dress...your petticoat’s a real mess! I’ll fix it sister dear”, she grinned, and yanked the skirt, which came unpinned and tore in half a dozen places...”Why, this is paper’, she exclaimed,’ A dress so cheap, a price so petty, it’s good for nothing but confetti.” And so her sisters left her there. Now she “tried and tried to glue the golden leaves in place, shaping the shredded sleeves to make the lovely dress come back again. ‘If only I hand’t lost the ring Mother gave me before she died. She said, ‘Hammered from fairy gold, this simple band can change your fate.’ The mamma magpie’s wings went cold. ‘Husband, I’ve done a dreadful thing’ ‘My dear,’ he said,’it’s not too late...” to return the scavenged treasure. So she “shook her tail and watched the ring roll off the shelf, bounce off the tray of dirty dishes, skim past the merchant’s favorite seat, and stop at Cinderella’s feet. ‘Why, can the very walls hear my wishes?” Slipping the ring onto her finger, “she twisted it round. The door swung wide without a sound..’We’ll need a coach, a splendid horse...’.’But who are you?’ exclaimed the girl, ‘Your fairy godmother, of course. ‘She raised her wand of mossy green...’Your tattered dress shall have a sheen and elegance of velveteen. And when all this has come to pass, may silver slippers turn to glass.’ The tatters rose, the dress obeyed, and Cinderella’s beauty blazed so bright the magpie’s were afraid.” Now a pumpkin was turned into a coach, “lizards to footmen, mice to mares, a pumpkin coach, a footman rat. Who would believe the likes of that? ...They whisked Cinderella to the palace. “The old guard who saw the coachman stop told all the maids and half the guests a pair of magpies rode on top. Now every magpie knows the tale, although it happened long ago. Each spring, the magpies build new nests outside my room. They never fail, before their fledglings fall asleep, to tell a favorite fairy tale. I heard the story just last week. I got it from a magpie’s beak.”
|Cinderella sweeps the steps|
under the magpie's nest.
Notes: By Willard, N. Illustrated by Dyer, J. (2003). New York: Blue Sky Press Cinderella's Dress. This is a fun story, told in verse, from the point of view of two little birds. It is an easy-reader with lovely illustrations. Look for the secret rhyme tucked inside:"The black magpie is very rare/ and only seen by those who share/the power to make a wish come true. I pass the secret on to you."
Montessori Connection 6-12 Zoology/Aves/Pica nutalli, the California Yellow Billed Magpie
1. Read the story and learn what kind of birds help Cinderella here.
2. Write down the name of the birds in your notebook, including the scientific name.
3. Learn that magpies spend a lot of time on the ground looking for insects to eat and scraps to make nests from.
4. Learn that magpies often remain as a pair for many years.
5. Learn more about magpies:Birds (National Audubon Society First Field Guides), or Audobon Guides: All the Birds of Eastern and Central North America or Birdscapes: A Pop-Up Celebration of Bird Songs in Stereo Sound