I believe every young girl hopes a prince will come along and rescue her from whatever fate may have in store for her. I never thought it would be possible for a prince to come along and for the girl to deny the possibility of a happily ever after, but in Mechanica by Besty Cornwell, the reader gets exactly that–a girl who simply says no to the boy. This modern-day Steampunk-Cinderella story is the tale of Nicolette, who has been left to a wicked stepmother and two evil stepsisters, but this story has a bit of fairy revolution in it as well.
When Nicolette turns 16 years old, she is given a letter from her deceased mother; the letter leads her to a secret room in the house where Nicolette meets a tiny, mechanical horse her mother has left her. With a little fairy magic and her mother’s journals, Nicolette is able to invent machines to help with menial chores and later sell them to escape her life of service. Nicolette–renamed Mechanica because of her ability to build mechanical things and her nickname of Nick–befriends two kids in the market who inspire her to help in the Fey revolution, and encourage her to become more than just a maid to the two insolent stepsisters.
I was thoroughly impressed by the atypical ending to this fairy tale. This book does not give its readers romance or stereotypical characters. It is a cleverly written story about a young girl who figures her happily-ever-after life depends on only one person–and that person is her.
In the Classroom: The Disney version of Cinderella can be compared and contrasted with Mechanica. (I love an excuse to watch a good feel good movie and serve a peanut free snack.) Each has similar plot lines, but have completely different outcomes. The atypical theme in Mechanica allows your reader/writer to analyze the development of the plot while showing how opposite the endings are between the two. While using Common Core Reading Anchor Standard #2 you can have your students “Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.”
This is a great book to add to the classroom library and have a unit on movies versus books. It is fun to allow your student to select their book/movie from a list you have given them, thus ensuring you have read the book and watched the movie. I always hesitated allowing students to select their own book/movie for fear of what I may have to read and later give a grade on. I had a list of 25 books/movies they could select. I tried to update this on a regular basis on what the trending books were at the time. I will start doing this for my Review (Plus) so teachers can know what to add to their classroom libraries for units they may want to use.
Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell (Clarion Books | 9780547927718 | August 25, 2015)