Phillis Gershator







About me





by Phillis Gershator

Little Bell Caribbean, 2016

*  Governor's Summer Reading Challenge,
U.S. Virgin Islands,

From the book jacket:
Is this a Cinderella story?
    Caribel’s stepmother treats her cruelly. But in Caribel’s story, there are also people who care for her: an uncle, who is now her pen-pal, a spritely old lady who lives hidden away in the bush, and a devoted school teacher.
    Caribel's hope is that one day she'll become a real, “inside” member of her family––if only she can be good enough. She tries her best. She does her chores. She wins the school spelling bee. But what does good enough mean? Can she be good and keep secrets, too? Or speak her mind? Or break a promise? Or, when the time comes, save her own life?

A little about the book:

I was working at a public elementary school in St. Thomas when a colleague I deeply admired told me about her experience growing up as an outside child.

“It’s a modern Cinderella tale,” I said “You should write a book!”
And she said, “YOU write it.”

The story I wrote is far from my colleague’s actual biography, though some actual incidents do appear, from her story as well as other stories from real life, and these incidents inspired me to invent more incidents along the way. I also found myself interweaving two Cinderella stories, the Perrault version, popularized in the animated Disney movie, and a West African tale, which is one of many tales from both Africa and Asia featuring an unjustly mistreated young person who is good, kind, generous and, for that reason, is befriended by a magical being.

I am thankful to the many people who read this story as it developed. They were always encouraging
and made so many excellent suggestions––from Emily Wax, my first young reader, to Little Bell's executive editor, Mario Picayo, who helped me refine the manuscript for publication.

The chapter decorations are lino cut prints. As it happened, I inherited my artist father's woodcutting tools when he passed and used those tools to create the prints for Caribel's story.

From the reviews:

"Caribella is an engaging story which moves fluidly between past and present, lore and the unravelling narrative of the main character’s life which has the potential to be its own lore, reality and non-reality/fantasy, and manages to be fairly light in tone (in great part because of voice) in spite of the rough reality of Caribella’s life. A good read for both adults and young readers ... middle primary up."
Full review by Joanne C. Hillhouse on her website: https://jhohadli.wordpress.com/joannes-extra-ness/blogger-on-books/blogger-on-books-lv-caribella-by-phillis-gershator/

Things to do:

In between reading books for the governor's summer reading challenge, here are five things to do inspired by Caribella.

1) Plant love leaves for friends. Simply place a leaf in a pot of soil and it will grow. Keep it moist and you should see a new plant in a week or two.

2) Read Cinderella tales from other lands. There are hundreds of them!
Here are a couple of my favorites, all with beautiful illustrations:
The Talking Eggs and Cendrillion, both by Robert D. San Souci,
Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe, and Yah-Shen by Ai-line Louise. For more suggestions, there are many sites online that list Cinderella stories from afar, with suggestions for studying them and learning more about other cultures.

3) Find examples of optical illusions.
To get started, check out these popular web sites:



4) Become a spelling champ. Learn 7 new words every week, one word a day. And don't forget to learn words beginning with L!

5) Make up a new ending for a fairy tale. Maybe the seeds Jack plants aren't beans. What could they be? Maybe the frog isn't a prince. He's a ???

Questions for discussion:

1) What gives Caribel hope that she’ll be welcome in her father’s family?
What makes her believe she will never be welcome?

2) Do you ever wonder, like Caribel, what happens AFTER the happy ending of a made-up story?

3) Why does Caribel like to read so much?

4) Clarisse tells Curtis he should “Forget the past. Think of the future.”
Does she follow her own advice?

5) What is prejudice? Do any characters in this story express prejudice?
If so, about what?
6) Why does Miss Mary leave so suddenly? Where could she have gone?

7) Have you ever been tricked by an optical illusion? Can we explain the magic of the magic mango tree? What are the messages we take about good vs bad behavior from that tale?

8) What parts do Caribel’s lullaby and necklace play in her story?

9) Uncle Curtis says there is more we can do to manage our water. What can we do to prevent erosion and flooding? If clean water is becoming a scarce resource, what can we do to save water and create new, clean sources of water?