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The Stepsister's Tale Hardcover – June 24, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


Highly imaginative as well as insightful, this outstanding revision has the power to entrance and provoke thought.
Kirkus Starred review

Barrett's writing shines with an ethereal otherworldliness that enhances the fairy tale origins.
School Library Journal

Barrett cleverly upends traditional notions of happily ever after—rather than Cinderella’s usual trajectory of rising from the ashes to marry a prince, salvation comes through hard work, realizing the futility of clinging to a long-dead illusion of nobility, and embracing a “lowered” station in life that truly allows them to live.
PW Starred review

A brilliant and innovative retelling.
Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray)

Dazzling and enchanting, The Stepsister’s Tale is a finely tuned story that breathes new life into the classic Cinderella tale. Tracy Barrett shines as a marvelous storyteller due to her smooth prose, lively characters and perfectly dramatic plot. Jane is a splendid narrator and possesses all the right qualities for a star heroine. With a sweet romance and hints of the fantastical, this is an inventive must-read!
RT (Romance Time) Book Reviews

Clever plotting and character development are complemented by rich descriptive passages, and by flipping the tale around, the familiar becomes an unpredictable read.
Booklist Online

The author tweaks the well-known story artfully so the new version jibes with the well-known story, making the new vantage point totally plausible.
School Library Monthly

Barrett has transformed a rather mean-spirited old tale into a girl-empowering story that is both gritty and uplifting, a work of romantic realism for the under-fifteen set.
Chapter 16

About the Author

Tracy Barrett writes both fiction and nonfiction set in the ancient and medieval past, as well as contemporary novels, for middle-grade and young-adult audiences. Her titles include the popular Sherlock Files series, as well as the award-winning Anna of Byzantium, Dark of the Moon (starred review, Kirkus), King of Ithaka (starred review, SLJ), and others. She loves traveling, and speaking to groups of students, teachers, and librarians.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin Teen (June 24, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037321121X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0373211210
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #782,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up mostly in New York state. I went to college in New England and graduate school in California.

The first book I ever read by myself was called Little Bobo and His Blue Jacket. I still have it. I learned to read when I was three, but I know now that this doesn't mean much. My brother didn't really read until he was seven, and now he reads more and remembers it better than I do.

I have a husband, two grown children, and two crazy Jack Russell terriers.

I teach Italian and other subjects at Vanderbilt University, but I've handed in my resignation and plan to retire in May, 2012, to write full time. I love doing school visits and hope that when my schedule doesn't mean that I'm working while kids are in school, I'll be able to do more of them.

I like to travel, especially to Italy, and especially with my family. I used to skydive (that's how I met my husband, but on the ground, not in the air!) but I haven't jumped out of an airplane in a long time.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Rachel @ Paper Cuts blog on June 29, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
The Stepsister's Tale is a retelling of Cinderella that's almost gritty, almost rough in its interpretation of the well-loved fairy tale, and it works. It's a fairy tale that's so associated with beauty and magic, thanks to Disney, that you would think a touch of dirt would take away its luster, but it has the opposite effect. And instead of shining a light on the cruelty of others and true love taking Cinderella away, The Stepsister's Tale highlights familial (especially sisterly) love and duty and works to show that the value of a person doesn't lie in how they're born or their title, but simply in who they are and who they choose to be.

The novel follows a general path of Cinderella, though many of the details are turned on their heads. The stepsisters aren't evil, just hard-working and want a little help. The mother isn't evil, either--maybe she's a little out of her mind, actually. The prince is not the kind of man a self-respecting girl wants to marry. The ball isn't glittering and immaculate. And even our Cinderella isn't the cinder maid left out from the ball out of spite. Happily ever after just may not include a royal wedding. I thought it was such fun wondering how Tracey Barrett was going to make things work out, because I knew I couldn't just expect the ending the fairy tale gives. From the first page you can tell this isn't that kind of book.

And what worked really well for me, too, is that the story is slow and rather uncomplicated. There aren't bunches of bells and whistles added to the retelling to make it different, instead making it simply a look at the story from a new perspective, one we never thought we'd sympathize with.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Maggie Knapp on October 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover
It's hard for me to like a book if I don't like the people in it. However, Tracy's Barrett's THE STEPSISTER'S TALE is worth reading, even though nobody is very likable. It's described on the cover as a "brilliant and innovative retelling" of Cinderella. In this story, we meet Maude and Jane and their mother--unpleasant upper-crust people in reduced circumstances due to the father/husband's debts and death. The girls, however, suck it up and perform all the hard work of the house (not without grumbling, mind you.) Enter Isabella (later taunted with the nickname "Cinder"ella), a whiny spoiled brat with a controlling father. Isabella, far from being the victim of her stepsisters, gives as good as she gets in the mean and whiny department. Enter a dislikable prince. And a ball. And a twist on the "fairy godmother" aspect. And a more-or-less happily ever.

What worked: the tale kept enough of the bare bones of Cinderella to give a framework to the story, though there is freedom taken with the retelling. The girls are strong-willed and willing to work hard, even if they complain about it.

What didn't work as well: Nobody is a hero. I guess I wanted one person to root for wholeheartedly. (There are a few minor characters from the woods who are root-for-able, but they are minor characters.) Those girls on the cover look 20 years old, while in the story they seem 13, aging to 16 or so. And I have a quibble about where the apostrophe belongs -- Is it really just one stepsister's tale?

This is a great choice for people who read a lot and looking for something different. Barrett's plot and writing style kept me reading, even as I winced at the characters. I'd recommend to mid-teen girls who read lots of books.
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Format: Hardcover
Netgalley Copy

What a pleasant surprise!

My expectations for this book were based on previous experience with fairy-tale retellings for the Cinderella story that focused a little too much on the romance (just as the original did, I suppose). Tracy Barrett took the story and turned it into a glowing retell that read more like a historical fiction and had me sitting back in my chair and thinking "I never considered HER feelings."

Truly Ms. Barrett has done something very interesting with "The Stepsister's Tale" by asking the reader to look at BOTH the perspective of Cinderella and the "ugly" stepsisters. Though Isabella (Ella. Cinder-Ella) is quite infuriating at times the author seems to be reaching out very subtly and asking us to consider the psychology of this young woman who has lost her mother and has been yanked out of the only life she has EVER known to live with a new step-mother two girls she has nothing in common with. On the other hand you have two sisters who are thick as thieves with their mother when all of the sudden two new people enter the picture with no clue how to love or handle the sisters. As children do (their ages in this story range from 12-15) they jump to constant conclusions about each other and live within the realm of "I'm right and she's wrong" just enough to really rile each other up.

Misunderstandings abound.

Since the story is told from the eldest stepsister's point of view the reader has the pleasure of being as confused as she is regarding the behavior of her new sister. Jane's perspective of Ella is based on feelings of contempt for a younger girl who can't do anything to assist in the family's struggles, and in truth just adds to the misery.
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