Cinderella Stays Late is the first novel in the Grimmtastic Girls series by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams. It is a charming and delightful twist on Cinderella's fairy tale for middle grade readers, ages 8-12. This is an excellent story to share with your child due to the number of references to fairy tales and key authors of children's literature such as the Brothers Grimm, Perrault, and Anderson. This is a PERFECT springboard into teaching kids about the classics — and teaching kids was the point of these classic children's tales in the first place!
I loved all the fairy tale allusions in this book. For example, Cinda's father repairs bridges and he's currently repairing London Bridges, which are falling down. And then there's the school secretary, Ms. Jabberwocky, who breathes fire and speaks nonsense, but after a while, the nonsense starts to make sense (I LOVED seeing some Lewis Carroll!).
Holub further engages the reader's interest by adding her own unique twist on Cinderella's story. Her stepsisters (aka the Steps) use Cinderella to get the prince to fall in LIKE with them —like not love — a very age-appropriate amendment. This story is about Cinderella going to the school ball to figure out what evil scheme the Steps are plotting, and to make sure that good wins out. However, kids will still find some of the classic elements in the story, such as the glass slipper, the magic wand, the ball, the concept of "until midnight", and more.
Furthermore, Cinderella Stays Late is an extremely relatable story. Cinda is the new girl at school, she doesn't have pretty dresses, she prefers sports over girly activities like dancing, she's teased, and she comes from a fractured family. Young readers can dive into the story for the magic and fairy tale characters, but they can also find themselves in Cinderella's insecurities and flaws, and in her hopes and dreams.
I'm still surprised by how much I love this book. It's engaging on so many levels and is an easy, light, and sweet happily-ever-after. Cinda has some unanswered questions at the end that leave the reader to think about and decide. For example, Cinderella wonders if the prince likes her. But even with all the questions Cinderella has, as with every fairy tale, there is a morale that young and impressionable girls will benefit from hearing.
There are more important things in life than worrying over whether or not a boy likes you — being yourself, school, friends, and above all, making sure good wins over evil.