“Once upon a planetoid, amid her tools and sprockets, a girl named Cinderella dreamed of fixing fancy rockets.”
And so begins Deborah Underwood’s Interstellar Cinderella, a retooled version of the classic fairy tale inspired by her own childhood. It features an independent, mechanically inclined heroine who is way more interested in fixing the prince’s busted spaceship than marrying him. She’s a girl who has no use for foot cramping glass slippers as she saves the day (and him) with her sonic socket wrench.
While Deborah’s story follows a similar plot track to the Disney-fied version of Charles Perrault’s 17th century tale, her details make ALL the difference in giving this story a turbo boost of awesome. Interstellar Cinderella is mandated to doing the maintenance on her stepmother’s appliances, though she dreams about fixing spaceships some day; her evil stepfamily leaves her behind when they are invited to the prince’s Royal Space Parade; she enlists the help of her robotic mouse pal Murgatroyd and her fairy godrobot to get her there (they make her a kickass spacesuit to wear and set her up with a new box of tools); and SHE comes to the prince’s rescue after his fancy royal rocket breaks down.
“I’m far too young for marriage, but I’ll be your chief mechanic!”
Most importantly, Deborah’s Interstellar Cinderella directs her own fate, and doesn’t let concern about what others think guide her actions. In a piece she penned for Nerdy Book Club, the author wrote, “She’s the kind of girl I wish I could have been, the kind of woman I’m trying to be—and the kind of girl I wish I’d read about when I was six.” She added, “Many of the stories I read when I was young had protagonists like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White who were passive—even comatose!—during critical plot points. So I wanted to give kids a smart, strong, active Cinderella, a Cinderella with her own interests and her own non-prince-related desires.”
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Deborah has been writing children’s books since 2001, but the inspiration for Interstellar Cinderella came from her own childhood fascination with mechanical things and personal experience. When she was a little girl her dad took her to planetarium shows on the college campus where he taught math. She was captivated by the magical night sky, and by the astronomer’s voice – a woman’s voice – that guided the audience around the heavenly bodies projected onto the domed ceiling. It sealed the deal for young Deborah, “I’m going to be an astronomer when I grow up!”
But when she was old enough to start reading books on the subject, the female astronomers voice that so inspired her started to get drowned out by all the male astronomers she came across. Accounts of man after man after man… with not a single woman astronomer mentioned. She felt her dream deflating as she came to the unhappy realization that the female astronomer she knew was the exception, not the rule.
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Deborah shared, “Even at that tender age, I knew that being the exception was hard. I was smart, profoundly unathletic, and introverted—the triple crown of Elementary School Doom. The survival skill that worked best for me was blending in: not raising my hand, not calling attention to myself. So a career where I would stick out because I was female? Not a huge temptation. I revised my plans.”
But her fascination with the night sky stuck with Deborah. “It pulled me into Star Trek geekdom in junior high, it meant I was delighted when I got to write a nonfiction astronomy book years ago, and it guided my desire to write Interstellar Cinderella.”
To this day, Deborah sometimes wonders what would have happened if half the astronomers’ names in those books she read were female. “Would I be an astronomer now? Who knows? But that experience taught me a profound lesson about how quickly kids form ideas about what is and isn’t possible. And it taught me how critical it is that they see people like themselves in books.”
Interstellar Cinderella, which published in May 2015, is available at all major book retailers, but Deborah told WYSK she always likes “to steer people to their local indie stores–want to keep those stores in business!” So if you want to add this empowered title to your family library, here’s how to locate the indie store nearest you.
Editor’s Note: Deborah typically suggests her book for ages 4-8, but leaves that to personal discretion as “it really depends so much on the child.”
More About Deborah:
Deborah Underwood is the author of numerous children’s books, including Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat, Interstellar Cinderella, and the New York Times bestsellers Here Comes The Easter Cat, The Quiet Book, and The Loud Book! She lives in Northern California with her feline companion, Bella. Visit her online at DeborahUnderwoodBooks.com or connect with her on Twitter @.