Childrens Book Review: The Persian Cinderella by Shirley Climo and Watercolorist Robert Florczak

by DerdriuMarriner

Modern Iran emerges as uniquely as did ancient Persia. The nation’s Cinderella stories must be equally unique. “The Persian Cinderella” indeed offers a one-of-a-kind Cinder-beauty.

The ancient land of Persia and the modern nation of Iran boast beautiful built and natural environments. Cities, farms, towns, and villages can be identified by the uniqueness of:
• fragrant concoctions and plants;
• musical sounds.

Iran’s and Persia’s architecture and textiles emphasize the special blueness of:
• bright skies;
• water bodies;
• wildflower petals.

Color gets a pivotal role in Iran’s and Persia’s Cinderella story. The fairy tale has such other Iranian and Persian plot-advancing injections as:
• alms for the misfortunate;
• dangerous hair pins;
• diamond anklets;
• fairy magic from a blue jug;
• fleet horses questioning river water potability;
• Nowruz celebrations for the New Year;
• silver-grey turtledove in windows.

The above-mentioned inputs ultimately make “The Persian Cinderella” uniquely unforgettable.


Robert Florczak's website:


In memory of Shirley Climo (1928 - August 25, 2012)


A fairy (peri) is critical in fulfillment of Settarah's wishes in "The Persian Cinderella":

Persian style composite animal led by peri (fairy).
Archaeological Museum, Bhopal, central Madhya Pradesh, central India
Archaeological Museum, Bhopal, central Madhya Pradesh, central India


Birthmarks and stellar configurations are subject to interpretation by Persia’s poets and princes. A young mother’s death follows her only child’s delivery. The birthing process gives the infant a star-marked left cheek. The girl therefore has the name Settareh (“Star”). Settareh is given chores, leftovers, and rags by her aunts and stepfamily. Settareh’s father finally lets her have a gold coin to buy new clothes for New Year celebrations with Prince Mehrdad (“Compassionate”). Instead of clothes, Settareh prioritizes:

  • Alms for a depressed, grimy, hungry, old woman;
  • Blue jar;
  • Toasted almonds in a wrapper.

Back home, the jug’s pari (fairy) responds to Settareh’s requests for:

  • Apricots, sweet figs;
  • Goat-hair shawl;
  • Jasmine blossoms;
  • Pomegranate seed-red silk dress;
  • Turtledove companionship.


In "The Persian Cinderella," a fairy (peri) fulfills Settareh's wish for a pomegranate seed-red silk dress:

Pomegranates (Punica granatum) are cherished in Iran (modern-day Persia).


Settarah enjoys the feast filled with:

  • Alburz Mountain snow-filled goblets;
  • Lutes, zithers;
  • Roast lamb, whitefish;
  • Spiced cucumbers, sweet oranges;
  • Tart rhubarb.

She gets home before her stepfamily. She hides:

  • Dress;
  • Golden pendant;
  • One diamond anklet;
  • Turquoise bracelets.

The other anklet is discovered in the river water when Mehrdad’s horse resists drinking. Mehrdad’s mother makes door-to-door searches for the anklet’s wearer. Everyone must celebrate 39 days before the lovebirds’ marriage on the 40th. But stepsisters Leila and Nahid pin Settareh’s ebony tresses with six shards remaining from the jar's self-destructing rather than betraying its mistress. Settareh relocates as a turtledove to Mehrdad’s window. Mehrdad transforms Settareh by removing the shards. The lovebirds wed under showers of 1,000 pearls.


In "The Persian Cinderella," Settarah travels as a turtle dove to Prince Mehrdad's window:

Turtle doves (Streptopelia turtur) claim Iran (ancient Persia) among their extensive native homelands.
Persian avian native
Persian avian native



Specialists acknowledge Settareh’s story as a most fascinating, memorable Cinderella tale. Printed in the United States of America and originally published in 1999, the updated version collates the impressive talents of:

  • Shirley Climo, as writer;
  • Robert Florczak, as brownline paper illustrator in trademark TOMBOW body color, colored pencil, ink, and water-based markers;
  • HarperCollins, as publishers;
  • Maryam Nassirbegli, as library and research assistant;
  • Anthony Shay and Jamal of Avaz International Dance Theater, as architectural and costume consultants.  

The original plot upon which The Persian Cinderella is based comes from one of the many Arabian Nights’ folkloric compilations. Its current retelling guarantees cultural enrichment and educational entertainment to:

  • Book-lovers aged 4 – 8 and upward;
  • Preschoolers to fourth-graders and onward.


The Persian Cinderella by Shirley Climo ~ illustrations by Robert Florczak

Magic helps Settareh to outsmart two jealous stepsisters and win the heart of a prince. But where most Cinderella stories end, poor Sattareh's troubles are only beginning! Unexpected plot twists in the lush setting of long-ago Persia will enchant readers.
Cinderella stories



My special thanks to talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet.


"The Persian Cinderella" features a bracelet bejeweled with turquoise, a much prized gem in ancient Persia:

Turquoise reached Europe from Persia's famed northeastern mines in historic Khorasan Province.
village of Ma'dan, Nishapur, Razavi Khorasan Province, northeastern Iran
village of Ma'dan, Nishapur, Razavi Khorasan Province, northeastern Iran

Sources Consulted


Climo, Shirley. 2001. The Persian Cinderella. Illustrated by Robert Florczak. New York City, NY: HarperCollins Children's Books.

Crossman, Rachel Hope. 22 March 2011. “#78 The Persian Cinderella (Happy Nowruz 2011!).” 365 Cinderellas Powered by Retrieved December 10, 2014.

  • Available at:

Lewis, Naomi. 1987. Stories from the Arabian Nights. New York, NY: Henry Holt.

“The Persian Cinderella.” The Art of Robert Florczak: Art > Book Art. Retrieved December 10, 2014.

  • Available at:

Rooth, Anna Birgitta. 1951. The Cinderella Cycle. Lund, Sweden: C.W.K. Gleerup.

Sierra, Judy. 1992. The Oryx Multicultural Folktale Series: Cinderella. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood.

Smith, Anet. 1 October 2008. “The Persian Cinderella -- Traditional Literature.” Butterfly Wings: Our Life in Posts and Pictures Powered by Retrieved December 10, 2014.

  • Available at:

Thomas, Rhonda. “Book Review: The Persian Cinderella Written by Shirley Climo and Illustrated by Robert Florzak [sic].” Rhonda’s Children’s and Young Adult Literature Website. Retrieved December 10, 2014.

  • Available at:


the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

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DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 08/02/2021, DerdriuMarriner
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DerdriuMarriner on 12/15/2014

Robert Florczak, Your illustrations of "The Persian Cinderella" epitomize what I cherish most in art: color, form, timelessness, timeliness. From your other work, I know that the artistry which tells Settarah's story so elegantly and eloquently is not at all unusual.
Thank you for taking the time to visit and comment, and thank you for sharing your talents with the world.

Robert Florczak on 12/14/2014

Thank you for your kind and insightful review.

Robert Florczak

DerdriuMarriner on 12/13/2014

Lybrah, The various Cinderella stories are charmingly illustrative with local uniqueness. I'm happy that you appreciate the Persian Cinderella, and I'm sure that you will enjoy the versions which I've covered from other countries.

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