by Phillis Gershator
Bell Caribbean, 2016
Summer Reading Challenge,
U.S. Virgin Islands, 2016
the book jacket:
Is this a Cinderella story?
stepmother treats her cruelly. But
in Caribel’s story, there are also
people who care for her: an uncle,
who is now her pen-pal, a spritely
old lady who lives hidden away in
the bush, and a devoted school
is that one day she'll become a
real, “inside” member of her
family––if only she can be good
enough. She tries her best. She
does her chores. She wins the
school spelling bee. But what does
good enough mean? Can she
be good and keep secrets, too? Or
speak her mind? Or break a
promise? Or, when the time comes,
save her own life?
little about the book:
I was working at a public elementary
school in St. Thomas when a
colleague I deeply admired told me
about her experience growing up as
an outside child.
“It’s a modern Cinderella tale,” I
said “You should write a book!”
And she said, “YOU write it.”
The story I wrote is far from my
colleague’s actual biography, though
some actual incidents do appear,
from her story as well as other
stories from real life, and these
incidents inspired me to invent more
incidents along the way. I also
found myself interweaving two
Cinderella stories, the Perrault
version, popularized in the animated
Disney movie, and a West African
tale, which is one of many tales
from both Africa and Asia featuring
an unjustly mistreated young person
who is good, kind, generous and, for
that reason, is befriended by a
I am thankful to the many people who
read this story as it developed.
They were always encouraging
and made so many excellent
suggestions––from Emily Wax, my
first young reader, to Little Bell's
executive editor, Mario Picayo, who
helped me refine the manuscript for
The chapter decorations are
lino cut prints. As it happened, I
inherited my artist father's
woodcutting tools when he passed and
used those tools to
create the prints for Caribel's story.
Things to do:
between reading books for the
governor's summer reading
challenge, here are five things to
do inspired by Caribella.
1) Plant love leaves for friends.
Simply place a leaf in a pot of
soil and it will grow. Keep it
you should see a new
plant in a week or two.
2) Read Cinderella tales from
other lands. There are hundreds of
Here are a couple
of my favorites, all
with beautiful illustrations:
Talking Eggs and Cendrillion,
both by Robert D. San Souci,
John Steptoe, and Yah-Shen
by Ai-line Louise.
are many sites online
stories from afar,
3) Find examples of optical
To get started, check out these
popular web sites:
4) Become a spelling champ. Learn
7 new words every week, one word a day. And don't forget to
learn words beginning with L!
5) Make up a new ending for a
fairy tale. Maybe the seeds Jack
plants aren't beans. What could
they be? Maybe the frog isn't a
prince. He's a ???
gives Caribel hope that she’ll be
welcome in her father’s family?
What makes her believe she will
never be welcome?
2) Do you ever wonder, like
Caribel, what happens AFTER the
happy ending of a made-up story?
3) Why does Caribel like to read
4) Clarisse tells Curtis he should
“Forget the past. Think of the
Does she follow her own advice?
5) What is prejudice? Do any
characters in this story express
If so, about what?
6) Why does Miss Mary leave so
suddenly? Where could she have
7) Have you ever been tricked by
an optical illusion? Can we
explain the magic of the magic
mango tree? What are the messages
we take about good vs bad behavior
from that tale?
8) What parts do Caribel’s lullaby
and necklace play in her story?
9) Uncle Curtis says there is more
we can do to manage our water.
What can we do to prevent erosion
and flooding? If clean water is
becoming a scarce resource, what
can we do to save water and create
new, clean sources of water?