Title: The Golden Sandal A Middle Eastern Cinderella Story
Author: Rebecca Hickox
Illustrator: Will Hillenbrand
Publisher: Holiday House
Year of Publication: 1998
Hickox adapted this picture book from an Arabic folk tale called “The Little Red Fish and the Clog of Gold.” This picture book is a wonderful addition to any introductory lesson on traditional literature and multicultural folktales. It teaches one of the origins of the modern day Cinderella story with Middle Eastern elements. Much like Yen-Shen A Cinderella Story from China story, a dainty slipper and a magical fish both play important roles in an ill-treated stepdaughter’s quest for happiness.
Maha is the beautiful daughter of a widowed fisherman. After her mother’s death, Maha grows fond of the kind single mother next door. She convinces her father to marry the woman. The family gets along until the stepmother grows jealous that Maha’s beauty overshadows that of her own daughter. One day Maha is delivering fish from her father’s boat to her stepmother at home when she hears a little voice in her basket asking for help. A little red fish asks Maha to save him and she lets him go. He tells her she can call on him anytime and ask whatever she wishes. When the daughter of a merchant is to be married the family hosts a henna party where all the mother’s scope out eligible wives for their sons. Maha’s mean stepmother and her stepsister intend to attend the party without Maha. Desperate to attend the ceremony, Maha asks the red fish for help. He supplies her with clothes to wear and the most beautiful dainty slippers. The fish instructs Maha that she must leave the party before her stepmother. As she rushes out of the party, she loses her slipper. After the wedding, the bride’s brother is riding his horse when he stumbles upon the lost slipper. After discovering the beautiful shoe Tariq tells his mother he wants to marry its owner. She eventually finds Maha and the two are blessed with many children and a happy life.
Hillenbrand’s utilizes oil paints, pastels, and vellum to create highly textured illustrations. These images reflect the intricacies of the beautiful culture from which the story arose.