"The best children's stories are wisdom dipped in art and words." -Peter Reynolds

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Rough-Face Girl

The Rough-Face Girl written by Rafe Martin and illustrated by David Shannon is an Algonquin native american Cinderella story. It was published in 1992 by G.P. Putnam's Sons. The story takes place in a village along the shore of Lake Ontario. There is a legend that inside the largest wigwam was a handsome Invisible Being that no one could see except his sister and the woman who would marry him. Well in this village lived a poor man with three daughters. The two older ones were very mean to the younger sister and would make her sit very close to the fire to help fuel the flames. The sparks from the fire would fall on her and her hands, arms, and face became scarred. The other sisters would laugh at her and call her ugly. They gave her the nickname, "Rough-Face Girl." One day the two older sisters begged their father to give them nice clothes and jewelry so they could dress up beautifully and marry the Invisible Being. But when they arrived at the wigwam the sister was waiting outside. When she asked the girls if they had seen him they answered, "Of course we've seen him. Can't you see how pretty we are?" (Martin) So the sister started asking the girls questions like, "What is his bow made of?" and they couldn't answer truthfully but insisted they had seen him. Even though the sister knew they were lying, she let them inside and they saw the bow and arrows floating and then set down. They knew now that they really could not see him. The next day the Rough-Face Girl asked her father for jewelry and clothes like her sisters so that she could marry the Invisible Being because she sees his face everywhere. The man said that he did not have anything left but broken and worn out things. But she said, "Whatever you can spare, I can use." (Martin). So she put together her outfit which was ratty and falling apart. People laughed at her as she walked through the village to the big wigwam. As she got closer she saw the beauty of the Invisible Being in the wilderness around her. When she arrived at he lakeshore the sister was there waiting for her. As it turns out, the sister was a wise woman and could see into your soul and see if you had a good heart. She saw right through the Rough-Face Girl and knew she was the one for her brother. She asked her the question, "What is his bow made of?" and the Rough-Face girl replied, "It is the great curve of the rainbow." (Martin). Then the sister asked, "What's the runner of his sled made of?" and the girl replied, "It is the Spirit Road, the Milky Way of stars that spread across the sky." (Martin). The sister was overjoyed that Rough-Face Girl had actually seen him and took her to the wigwam. The sister gave the Rough-Face Girl nice clothes and jewelry and had her bathe in the lake. As the bathed, the scars vanished from her body and she was beautiful again. The Invisible Being and Rough-Face Girl were married and lived together happily.

The story has similarities to the traditional Cinderella tale. There is a man with three daughters and no wife. The two eldest are mean to the younger daughter and torture her. The two eldest try to marry the dreamy man of the village but he doesn't want them and instead wants to marry the oppressed, lonely but beautiful youngest daughter. The illustrations are very dark and almost have a spooky feel to them. Based on the cover, I actually thought this would be a scary story! The dark theme adds to the authenticity and mood of the story. The illustrations are framed with a thin black line but still very large and the text is not framed and on the other side. The illustrations are very different from what I am used to seeing from David Shannon like in his No, David books and A Bad Case of Stripes. Illustrative style has an enormous impact on the tone of the story! The recurring colors are shades of tan, brown, and red which go perfectly with the story. There is a fuzziness to the pictures that makes the reader feel like they are in a dream or witnessing the story being retold.

In the author's note, Martin explains that this Algonquin Cinderella story is actually part of a much longer, complex, and traditional story that has been passed down for generations. He also said, "Grown on native soil, its mystery is rooted in our own place. I am happy to pass it on to children and parents today." (Martin). I really enjoyed this Native American Cinderella story. I am not sure about it's cultural authenticity but it seemed accurate to me. I would do a little more research on the accuracy of the book before reading it aloud to my students. But overall, this unique retelling of Cinderella would be a great addition to a classroom library and I highly recommend it!

1 comment:

  1. I've used this story when I've taught compare and contrast. It gives the students another point of view with a plot they already know.