07 November 2010

BOUND by Donna Jo Napoli

Napoli, Donna Jo, Simms. 2004. BOUND.  New York, NY: Atheneum Books. ISBN 9780689861758.

Xing Xing's father dies, leaving her to her stepmother and stepsister.  Keeping to the traditional Cinderella story, Xing Xing is not her stepmother's favorite and is left out and often belittled.  Then comes the day the prince comes looking for the owner of the golden shoe.


The typical Cinderella story, set in ancient China.  Women are not of great value and their beauty is often judged by their tiny, bound feet.  Xing Xing hasn't had her feet bound and is thus thought lacking by her stepmother, who also harbors resentment that Xing Xing's deceased father favored her.

The tale is rich in historical information and details of culture and customs.  It also deal with the very personal issues that Xing Xing faces, growing up under a resentful stepmother, dealing with the loss of her entire biological family, being made to constantly feel inferior, all during a time of discovery and growth.  Her skills in poetry and calligraphy help her hold on to who she is and emerge, especially when the Prince comes calling.  Seeing Xing Xing stand up for who she is and how she makes her decisions was inspiring.

Starred review from BOOKLIST:  "Teens and teachers will want to discuss the layered themes of freedom, captivity, love, human rights, and creative endeavor within this powerful survival story, which, like the yin and yang forces Xing Xing thinks about, balances between terror and tenderness, and is both subversive and rooted in tradition. "

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL  "Napoli retains the pattern of the traditional Chinese tale with only a few minor changes: she sets the story in the northern province of Shaanxi during the Ming dynasty rather than in a minority community in southern China. She fleshes out and enriches the story with well-rounded characters and with accurate information about a specific time and place in Chinese history; the result is a dramatic and masterful retelling."

In studying traditional stories or writing and how certain themes are used repeatedly in different ways, this could be used to illustrate the Cinderella theme.  Using the book Beauty by Susan Wilson to illustrate the Beauty and Beast theme would be a nice pairing.  There is also a young adult novel called Beastly by Alex Finn that would also pair nicely for a telling that would appeal to young men as well as young ladies.

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