Use these different versions of Cinderella books from around the world in a unit for 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade students

Cinderella Books from Around the World: 9 Multicultural Stories

Use these different versions of Cinderella books from around the world in a unit for 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade students

Written by guest blogger Cindy Koopmans

Let’s start with something familiar:  the story of Cinderella.   Then let’s take a trip around the world and transport this classic tale to many different settings and cultures.  

Let’s use the story of Cinderella to teach point of view, theme, compare and contrast, and summarizing. Doesn’t this sound like a fun reading unit?  Let’s lighten up and enjoy a change of pace.  We need that more than ever right now!

The authors and illustrators of these texts have done a masterful job of presenting the historical, cultural, and geographical details of the countries in which the stories are set.  So much time and energy went into the research before the writing even began!  

Be sure to check your social studies standards and see if you can kill two birds with this one stone.  Let’s work smarter, not harder!

It will be difficult for you to settle on which book is the most visually stunning.  Each one is so unique, so clever, and so gorgeously colorful. 

Using QR Codes for a Digital Option with a Cinderella Unit

I’d like to suggest that if you are teaching virtually or implementing a hybrid option this year, you go digital and provide students with the links to the read-alouds.  You save time and money.  A win-win!

I’ve created this super easy to use QR code generator to produce the QR codes for each of the read-aloud links.  You can copy and paste these QR codes into any document and then allow students to view videos on their own hand held devices.  

If you’re new to QR codes you can read more about them here.  And by the way, all the videos (links embedded) in this article have been previewed and carefully chosen so your students will be engaged in a well-read presentation of each story.

Have fun with this magical Cinderella unit with an international flair.  It’s high time for each of us to be transported…just for not just one, but many, many happy endings.  

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9 Different Versions of Cinderella Books

1. Anything But the Basic Cinderella - Caldecott Award Winning Cinderella by Marcia Brown

Begin your students’ journey with the original tale of Cinderella, elegantly told and beautifully illustrated. “Well, just be sure you’re a good girl,” said the Fairy Godmother, “and I’ll make sure you go!”  Ah, if only life were that easy.  This is why I love fairy tales.

Link:  Marcia Brown's Cinderella Read-Aloud  

QR Code for Caldecott Award Winning Cinderella

2. Mexico - Adelita, a Mexican Cinderella Story - by Tomie DePaola

This book is special because of dePaola’s use of vibrant color in his eye-arresting illustrations.   The read-aloud is wonderful...the Spanish speaking reader lends authenticity and expertise. You’ll fall in love with this text for so many reasons, including a wonderful juxtaposition of Spanish and English on the page like this one: “La casa Mercado se llenó de alegria—the Mercado house was full of happiness.”

Link: Adelita by Tomie dePaola Read-Aloud (with excellent pronunciation)

Adelita, A Mexican Cinderella for an around the world unit

3. The Caribbean - Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella -  by Robert D. San Souci

Lyrically lovely, San Souci has captured the musicality of the Caribbean in this beautifully illustrated text.  The island of Martinique is the lush setting for the story.  Adapted from a Creole tale, the old washerwoman “tells the story for true.”  This Cinderella story would lend itself well to a discussion of how point of view alters the telling of the story.

Link:  Robert D. San Souci's Cendrillon Read-Aloud

A Caribbean Cinderella Story for upper elementary students

4. China - Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China by Ai-Ling Louie

Because both Yeh-Shen’s parents have died, she lives with her stepmother and stepsister in a cave. The spin used in this Cinderella story is a special magic fish (whose bones are magic) and a helpful old man who guides Yeh-Shen on the journey to her happy ending.  This is a very clever re-telling and one of my personal favorites on this list.

Link:  Ai-Ling Louie's Yeh-Shen Read-Aloud

A Cinderella Story from China for a fairy tale Unit

5. Native American, Algonquin - The Rough-Face Girl, An Algonquin Tale by Rafe Martin

You’ll be happy you took the time to bring your students back to North America for this unique version of Cinderella.  The ugly sisters seek to marry the Invisible Being, which proves to be an impossible task for the arrogant sisters, but of course, the Rough Face Girl succeeds. The read-aloud is a university, student-produced video of excellent quality.

Link: Rafe Martin's The Rough Face Girl Read-Aloud


6. Zimbabwe - Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters, An African Tale by John Steptoe

With her lush voice and crisp pronunciation, Phylicia Rashad is a dream teller of this Reading Rainbow selection.  There’s lots of historical, cultural, and geographical details making this an important book to include should you have to narrow down your reading list.

Link: Phylicia Rashad reads Steptoe's Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters

An African Tale of Cinderella for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students

7. Egypt - The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo and Ruth Heller

Told with a great deal of charm and humor, this is a unique addition to an already wonderful list of books.  The illustrations add to the allure of this text.  Crisp and vibrant, Ruth Heller’s illustration style elevates the text.  I’ve got quite a few Heller books in my classroom, along with several of her fun and instructive grammar picture books, like Many Luscious Lollipops.

Link:  The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo

An Egyptian Cinderella to help you teach a Cinderella Unit

8. Korea - The Korean Cinderella by Shirley Climo and Ruth Heller

“Long ago in Korea, when magical creatures were as common as cabbages, there lived an old gentleman and his wife…” Thus begins the story of the lovely Pear Blossom.  The Children's Literature Annual review of the book stated,  " should be noted that all the illustrations—from those depicting Korean rituals to the smallest clothing details—are the result of the illustrator's extensive research and passionate interest in Korean culture.”   

If Korean culture fascinates you, I’d suggest this adult novel.  One of my favorite reads this year.  Lisa See's The Island of Sea Women

Link:  Shirley Climo's The Korean Cinderella Read-Aloud

A Korean Cinderella that can be used to compare and contrast Cinderellas from around the world

9. The Middle East - The Golden Sandal: A Middle Eastern Cinderella Story by Marcia Brown

“You poor motherless child, I love you like my own,” the neighbor woman says to Maha, our Middle Eastern Cinderella.  But when that neighbor woman becomes Maha’s stepmother, the trouble begins.  This tale sets aside a traditional fairy Godmother and prince’s ball, instead presenting a magical fish and a “bridal henna.”  Exotic, luscious, and sweet, this story will transport both you and your students.

Link:  Rebecca Hickox's The Golden Sandal Read-Aloud

A Middle Eastern Cinderella to help with a Cinderella fairy tale unit

Digital Project Ideas for a Cinderella Unit

No matter which way you choose to present these texts, consider thinking outside the box and allowing students to demonstrate their understanding of the subtleties of these gorgeous stories in a fresh new way.  

Perhaps you like the idea of student-created Google Jamboard projects.  Another way to go digital is to allow students to create a video presentation and post it to Google Classroom.  Or how about empowering students to create stop-motion animation in Google Classroom or whatever platform your district or organization is advocating?  The links in this paragraph will jump start your thinking.

Or consider student blogging 

If you haven’t tried blogs with your students you can learn more about the technicalities here from a “get rid of the books” website.  I don’t know if I’m ready to abandon books, but I am definitely trying to get away from papers, papers, and more papers.  So this year, I’m going to give blogging a whirl in my fifth grade classroom.  There’s a few sites that specialize in making blogging easy for you and for your students and you can explore some of those by clicking here.

If you're looking to add books to your 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade, classroom library, check out these recommendations!  

Cindy Koopmans lives in Sorrento, Florida and is a veteran fifth grade English Language Arts teacher, a lover of words, and a voracious reader. As empty-nesters, Cindy and husband Brian are finding more time than ever to simply enjoy life through travel and hobbies. If you want more book recommendations, Cindy always has them at the ready for adults and children alike. You can reach her to ask questions about teaching reading or writing at, or follow her on FaceBook at or Instagram @ckoopmans.

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