written by 
Joyce Carol Thomas
illustrated by David Diaz

Amistad, 2004
ISBN 0-0602-5387-8

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2005 Oklahoma Book Award

Once upon a time . . .

There was a singing Cinderella?

Yes, with a voice as flavorful as licorice.

There was also a Crooked Foster Mother and two evil sisters. A Queen Mother Rhythm and a Prince of Music.

And while there's no glass slipper to leave behind at the Great Gospel Convention, there is an enchanted melody for the Prince to search for ... and to find.

Award-winning author and poet Joyce Carol Thomas and Caldecott Medal-winning artist David Diaz have infused the classic Cinderella tale with a soulful twist.

As a child, I loved to read fairy tales and to hear Gospel music. Like the Gospel Cinderella and Queen Mother Rhythm, most gospel singers start off telling a sad story, then they segue into a prayerful song. Soon after the solemn notes, the rhythm sweeps the grief from their souls and rushes them into the arms of a healing ecstasy.

To clothe our Gospel Cinderella with a steadfast sense of fairness and faith, I remembered what I loved about fairy tales and gospel music and the people who called themselves "saved"... Cinderella's singing soul is her light in darkness. In our Gospel Cinderella's saddest moments she finds solace and joy in singing gospel. Always she keeps the sense of who she is. Even when those terrible twins try to diminish who she is. She's a girl who uses her power!

Now the African-American derived sound of Gospel music is imitated all over the world. They're singing gospel in Japan! In Europe! In Scandinavian countries! In China! In African nations.

I became a writer by writing stories about ordinary people and the extraordinary stories all around me. Sometimes between breakfast and bedtime I read a bushel of books. Family, friends, and neighbors inspired me. Inspired by the Gospel music in the sanctified church I grew up in, I wrote poems and Gospel songs all the time.

Joyce Carol Thomas

Publishers Weekly:

Thomas (Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea) puts a Southern spin on a well-known fairy tale for a charismatic adaptation set in the swamp.... In Thomas's inspired version, a Great Gospel Convention is held instead of a ball.... Diaz's (Smoky Night) stylized illustrations capture the emotion and the humor of the tale.... This unique twist on a classic subtly emphasizes the roots of gospel music, as a respite from hardship and sorrow ... "Easing my pain/ And lifting me up."

School Library Journal:

Numerous "Cinderella" variants abound, including John L. Steptoe's Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters (HarperCollins, 1987), and Robert San Souci's Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella (S & S, 1998), but none so distinctly African American as in this version, which draws on the gospel music tradition.... Diaz's double-page acrylics fill the spreads with humorous, bold, and colorful images. A delightful universal tale with an added musical twist.

Mary N. Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH

Black Books / Amistad Press 2004:

Once upon a time ... there was a Gospel Cinderella? In this story there was. There was also a Queen Mother Rhythm and a Crooked Foster Mother. A girl who can sing and a shack full of chores. A Great Gospel Convention and just one voice that fits! Treat a child in your life to this soulful retelling of the clssic Cinderella tale.

Angelica Marden, The Post:

The Gospel Cinderella Trades in
Her Glass Slippers for a Powerhouse Voice

... As a whole, the story serves as a powerful message to young readers by underscoring the fundamental moral: there is no other real treasure aside from the treasure within ourselves. "Through the strength already abiding in you, you can choose to be a person who feels joy in the midst of any situation. While others may choose to create discord, you take the higher road. You are a leader for peace," said Thomas.

Copyright 2004-2007 Joyce Carol Thomas. All rights reserved.
If you would like permission to use any of the text or images on this website, please contact the author.