Friday, March 28, 2008

The Way Meat Loves Salt: A Cinderella Tale from the Jewish Tradition

Author: Jaffe, Nina
Illustrator: August, Louise
Publisher and Date: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1998
Genre: Picture Book, Traditional Tale, Multicultural
Age Range: K-3

Summary: In this Cinderella tale, Mireleh, the youngest daughter of three has a special place in her fathers heart. She, however, is sent away from her home by her father after telling him she loves him the way meat loves salt. She meets a stranger in the countryside who gives her a magic stick (it gives her anything she wishes for after tapping it on the ground three times) with the instruction to go to the home of Rabbi Yitskhok ben Levi. The Rabbi and his family take her in because of their conviction to help those in need. The next day the Rabbi and his family leave for a wedding feast which Mireleh desires to go to. She uses the stick to get a dress, pearls, and slippers for the wedding feast. She arrived in time for the celebration and catches the eye of the Rabbi's son. She left early to beat the family back home, her shoe getting stuck in the tar the son leaves outside the door in order that he might speak with her. He goes around the town trying to find the girl that fits the slipper, and Mireleh asks to let her try it when he returns home. They marry when he finds out it is her the slipper belongs to.

Response: I really enjoyed this version of the Cinderella story. It was pretty different from what I would have expected. I like how Elijah the Prophet was incorporated as the 'fairy godmother' of Mireleh. Elijah was very special to the culture in that he lead the people away from worshiping different gods. In the same way he was able to lead Mireleh to a Rabbi and his family that would take her in and which lead her to her "prince". I was glad that there wasn't an evil step-mother or any evil step-sisters in the story. It made the story more enjoyable even though it was the father who drove his youngest daughter out of their home.

The illustrations were beautiful and wonderfully done. The book says that they were prepared as linocuts painted in full-color oils on rice paper. The people are simply drawn and each illustration has vibrant colors. In the spread where Elijah is speaking to Mireleh you sense a more mystifying tone being set. I think each illustration is fitting to the story line and the media used along with the simplistic style creates a more traditional tone for the book.

Teaching Ideas: This story would be wonderful to use in a multicultural lesson. First, students could read the traditional story of Cinderella followed by this story. Facts about the Jewish culture could be stated on a handout or poster for everyone to see and students could compare the two stories and pick out the culturally specific traditions and items within the story.

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