Bella at Midnight
Author: Diane Stanley
Illustrator: Bagram Ibatoulline
I always love it when some clever author takes an old fairytale and slaps it onto the potter’s wheel of their imagination till it becomes something wonderfully new and fresh with the shimmering strands of the old story glistening through it. I am always in awe when it works as beautifully as Bella at Midnight. Diane Stanley has taken Cinderella and created something entirely new and fascinating. I found myself caught up in every word of her story till I emerged breathless at the end.
Bella at Midnight is the story of Bella, a golden haired girl who’s mother dies in childbirth. Her intense and a little nutty knight of a father is so angry that she (as he sees it) caused her mother’s death that he has her aunt take the child away to be fostered. She is taken to another town and given to a peasant to be wet nursed alongside a prince named Julian. They grow up together and become great friends till the day that Julian treats her badly and breaks her heart. That very day, he is sent away as a hostage to a neighboring kingdom as insurance that the peace treaty is not violated.
In the meantime, Bella who has loved her life with the peasants is all of a sudden taken away to live with her crazy father and his new wife and daughters. She is miserable in the loveless and cold home of her father. While living in her father’s house, Bella hears of a plot to violate the treaty and ultimately put Julian in danger of death so being the brave girl she is, she sets off to save him.
The writing is stellar and the story is great. I loved that the heart of the story is honesty, loyalty and love. Bella is a wonderful character and readers are going to love both her and Julian. I loved that in this book, the fair maiden sets off to save the prince instead of vice versa. Bella at Midnight does old fairytales proud while bringing them a more modern sensibility and giving women their due strength while keeping them womanly.