Cinderella and a Mouse Called Fred
A new fairy-tale retelling from award-winning creators Deborah Hopkinson and Paul O. Zelinsky!
Experience a new, uproarious rendition of the classic fairy tale of Cinderella – narrated by the mouse who will ultimately become her coach horse. This version boasts a powerful message of female empowerment and inclusivity, with striking illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Paul O. Zelinsky and written by award-winning author Deborah Hopkinson. The book also delves into the origins of fairy tale pumpkins and how they came to be named as such.
A Q&A with illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky
What message do you hope readers take away from CINDERELLA AND A MOUSE CALLED FRED?
PAUL: I’m happy for young readers not to take any message from this book. What I hope for is any strong connection, of the reader’s own making. Books for children will always be used to teach, but I want them also to do what literature does: engage a human being on as many levels as possible. And the younger the child, the more idiosyncratic and personal the connections that they forge. Cinderella and a Mouse Called Fred has plenty of content you can think about and discuss, but it’s also just funny, and that’s a worthy end in itself.
You have both written and/or illustrated many books for young readers; what draws you to writing/illustrating for children?
PAUL: I wonder why anybody would want to do anything with their life other than make books for children! What else could you make that would be valued more by so many people (and people who are so adorable)? And even if I never had the privilege of meeting young readers in school visits or library programs and seeing their enthusiasm, it would be enough to remember first-hand the feelings that a great children’s book can engender; there’s nothing else like them. And those feelings, those relationships with favorite books, can continue for life.
The Cinderella story has been retold many times; what drew you to the story, and inspired your fresh take on it?
PAUL: I have made my own versions of some classic fairy tales, so I think I know the territory. But of course, my take this time was based on Deborah’s story. I was also influenced by talking with our editor Anne Schwartz about the manuscript— how it plays with girly and non-girly expectations, and how I could do something similar with the pictures.
Do you have a favorite illustration in the book? Which is it and why?
PAUL: I have to say in all modesty that quite a few of the spreads in the book amuse me, and I don’t have a single favorite.
One picture that I like is of Fred morphing from a mouse into a howling horse. A lot of people will probably assume that I copied Fred’s face from Picasso’s famous painting “Guernica,” with its very similar horses shrieking amid the mayhem of the Spanish Civil War. “Guernica” used to be on exhibit in New York’s Museum of Modern Art, where I saw it many times. I can’t deny the connection with Fred, but it was completely unconscious. I finished my drawing, looked at it, and said “Oh no, I just drew Picasso’s shrieking horse!” Since that moment I have avoided looking at Guernica to see how far the resemblance goes.
When I look at my blasé, bossy, middle-aged Fairy Godmother in this story I have a suspicion that she, too, might be some character I knew in childhood and am unwittingly just redrawing.