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About the Author

Donna Jo Napoli is the acclaimed and award-winning author of many novels, both fantasies and contemporary stories. She won the Golden Kite Award for Stones in Water in 1997. Her novel Zel was named an American Bookseller Pick of the Lists, a Publishers Weekly Best Book, a Bulletin Blue Ribbon, and a School Library Journal Best Book, and a number of her novels have been selected as ALA Best Books. She is a professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband. Visit her at


Napoli (The Magic Circle) takes the Cinderella story back to its roots in China, where the search for the right foot to fit the symbolic glass slipper takes on new meaning. The author sets the tale during the 14th-century reign of Emperor Hung-wu, when it was customary to bind girls' feet in order to make them more attractive as marriage prospects. While remaining true to the fairytale elements, Napoli endows each character here with three dimensions: the stepmother, for instance, is the number two wife of a recently deceased master potter, so she, understandably, puts her own daughter's welfare ahead of that of her stepdaughter, Xing Xing. The girl bears no ill will toward her stepsister, Wei Ping, but rather feels compassion for her as Wei Ping goes through the painful process of foot-binding. Through Napoli's masterly third-person narrative, told from Xing Xing's perspective, readers acquire an understanding of the events right along with the heroine. The author incorporates spiritual beliefs when a blind raccoon kit ("What terrible thing could a person do in one life to make it come back as a blind raccoon kit?" Xing Xing wonders) wounds Wei Ping, and a beautiful, gentle carp seems to watch over Xing Xing as she journeys to find a remedy for her stepsister. Even the form the godmother takes here is smoothly integrated into Xing Xing's spiritual journey. Napoli manages to grant Xing Xing an independence that remains authentic to her time, and creates both an adventure and a coming-of-age story that will have readers racing to the finish. Ages 12-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"A dramatic and masterful retelling." -- School Library Journal, starred review
"An adventure and a coming-of-age story that will have readers racing to the finish." -- Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Deliberate and satisfying." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Strong, unforgettable characters." -- Booklist, starred review

Gr 5-9-Napoli takes the elements of the traditional Chinese version of "Cinderella" and creates a powerful and moving story. Xing Xing is left to the mercy of her stepmother after the death of her father. Focusing on a good marriage for her own big-footed daughter, the woman binds the poor girl's feet even though she is past the usual age for this painful procedure. Xing Xing's only pleasure is her daily contact with a beautiful white carp in the pond where she draws water. To her, the fish seems to be the spirit of her mother helping her endure her difficult life. When the stepmother kills it, the girl is devastated, but she retrieves the bones from the garbage heap and, in the process of hiding them, discovers a green silk gown and gold slippers that belonged to her mother. Dressed in this rich garb, Xing Xing goes to the festival where she loses one slipper in her effort to escape detection. The slipper is eventually bought by an unconventional prince; when he finally finds its owner, Xing Xing considers her options and decides to marry him. Napoli retains the pattern of the traditional Chinese tale with only a few minor changes: she sets the story in the northern province of Shaanxi during the Ming dynasty rather than in a minority community in southern China. She fleshes out and enriches the story with well-rounded characters and with accurate information about a specific time and place in Chinese history; the result is a dramatic and masterful retelling.-Barbara Scotto, Michael Driscoll School, Brookline, MA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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