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MG Review: Whatever After, If the Shoe Fits by Sarah Mlynowski (with a TPIB)

It’s always about the shoe.  The shoe has to fit in order for the Prince to discover Cinderella’s true identity.  But what if Cinderella had an injury and her foot swelled up like a balloon?  And what if the fairy godmother refused to make everything better, insisting instead that Cinderella learn how to make her own way in the world?  Those are the questions asked by Sarah Mlynowski in her second Whatever After tale, If the Shoe Fits.

In Fairest of All, the brother and sister duo of Abby and Jonah discovered a magic mirror in their basement that took them to the land of Zamel where they met Snow White, and perhaps changed her story a little bit.  For three nights in a row now the pair have crept into their basement trying to get the mirror to do its magic swirly thing to take them back, but now it appears to be nothing but a mirror.  Until one night when they are whisked away to a new land, Floom.  At a ball.  There is no way they can mess this story up, right?

Floom is the land of Cinderella, and in this twisted fairy tale Abby and Jonah follow Cinderella home trying to find a way back to their own home when clumsiness strikes and the one remaining glass slipper is broken – on Cindrella’s foot, which has now swollen so large the Prince will never know she is the one he is looking for.  They beg the fairy godmother to help, but the fairy godmother is appalled at Cinderella’s inability to take care of herself, a Princess must be able to lead as you may be aware, and she demands that Cinderella find a way to solve the problem on her own and prove herself worthy of the Prince.  Her path to self-reliance involves getting a job, brownies (called crownies), and realizing that the Prince may not be her only way out of her horrible home life.

It would be easy to mistake the Whatever After series as a simple fun, silly romp through the world of fairy tales – and make no mistakes, it is fun and silly.  But this series provides us with a touching look at siblings while challenging some of the classic fairy tale conventions that sometimes make us all uncomfortable.  Here, Cinderella is challenged to rescue herself; and although she does so with the help of Abby and Jonah, she is forced to look at who she is, what she wants, and what she truly has to offer to the world.  And she does so while making us laugh at polka dot pajamas, made up words (how will she ever get herself out of this “relano” aka problem?), and a discussion as to whether or not we should put nuts in our crownies.  I personally don’t mind a little crunch in my crownie, but you must give me the edges thank you.

Whatever After: Fairest of All is one of my Tween’s favorite reads of 2012 and this sequel, If the Shoe Fits, does not disappoint.  To be completely cliche, it is whimsical and enchanting while challenging middle grade readers to realize that self-reliance is a good goal. It is also a pretty quick and easy read. Perfect for fans of Junie B. Jones, Judy Moody, Clementine, and the authors Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume. 4 out of 5 stars.

This series is a great tie-in with this Teen Program in a Box: Once Upon a Time

Make Crownies

Try putting together this best ever “Crownie” recipe from AllRecipes.com. Bonus points if you have a crown shaped cookie cutter and make crown shaped brownies.  Oh, and you can set up a decorating station or Top Chef like decorating contest by providing a variety of frostings and sprinkles.  Note: There is also a recipe for Baked Alaska Brownies in The Mother Daughter Cookbook: Recipes to Nourish Relationships by Lynette Rohrer Shirk (published by Zest Books).  This series is, in fact, a great read a-loud and great for a mother/daughter bookclub or in the classroom.

If the Shoe Fits Shoe Trivia

Put together a shoe identification contest – Shoes have logos and types and you could put together a fun contest (on paper, in a program, share via your social media) asking tweens to identify the various shoes.  Examples: Who makes Twinkle Toes? What designer shoes are popular for the red bottoms? Converse are famous for what type of shoe?  You can use pictures, word questions, etc. to create a dynamic, interactive contest.

Pajama Jam

Because Abby tends to spend a great deal of time in her pajamas and slippers in this series, you can invite your tweens to come to a pajama party (be specific about what types of pajamas are allowed) – think tea party but with pajamas.  You can play a variety of traditional sleepover games.  Get some pajama color sheets and invite tweens to design their own pajamas.  Decorate eye masks.  Have a slipper relay race.  This is a great book to tie-in with Disney’s Enchanted and other twisted fairy tales, so if you have a license definitely show the movie Enchanted.

Creative Writing Activities

Ask tweens to brainstorm: What fairy tales would they change and how?  Ask tweens to share a story about their siblings.  Siblings often share special, made-up languages, ask tweens to write about that. 

Crownie Recipe Cookbook

Ask tweens to share their favorite brownie (or dessert) recipes and put together a cookbook.  You can do a week where you share recipes online via your social media sites.

Whatever After: If the Shoe Fits by Sarah Mlynowski is published by Scholastic, 2013.
ISBN: 978-0-545-50465-2.

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