Children's Book Reviews

Book reviews by elementary school teachers Kate Glinsmann and Jennifer Sykes.
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The Rough-Face Girl-An Algonquin Indian Cinderella Story

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THE ROUGH-FACE GIRL by Rafe Martin, illustrated by David Shannon

There are over 1,500 versions of the Cinderella story, but this one, The Rough-Face Girl, is truly my favorite. This one is an Algonquin Indian Cinderella, and actually a part of a longer traditional story. The Rough-Face Girl takes place in a village on the shores of Lake Ontario. There is the ubiquitous father and three daughters in this story, as well as a handsome man that all the young women want to marry. But instead of being a prince, this man is an Invisible Being, and in lieu of a glass slipper the woman who is worthy to marry this man has to answer two questions about him. As with most Cinderella stories the one sister is picked on by her cruel sisters as they set out to win the man’s love. And as all of these tales end, it is the underdog who wins the man’s love in the end.

The reason I like this book so much, and always made sure it was part of my kindergarten literacy curriculum is because I feel it is important to expose children to various cultures. Doing this through reading is easy, and there are so many wonderful books available. The Rough-Face Girl is told as a narrative, and Rafe Martin does a nice job of introducing some great vocabulary words in this book. Words such as “haughtily”, “buckskin”, “stammered” and “desperately” will create an opportunity for parents and teachers to discuss definitions and meanings. I also like how Martin introduces the reader to Native American culture from long ago through this story.  I always read this to my students during the month of November as part of our Thanksgiving unit.

I want to point out that this book is illustrated by David Shannon, who wrote and illustrated the “David” books. If you are familiar with those then you will be amazed at the difference in the illustrations between those books and this one. These are hauntingly beautiful paintings that emote the feelings of this story to perfection, and give you the feel of actually being in this village on the lakeshore.

The Rough-Faced Girl is a great example of a multi-cultural Cinderella story. There are many, many of these that have been written, and a list of these books can be found on the American Library Association website.