The Stepsister’s Tale

by Tracy Barrett

At A Glance
Interest Level

Reading Level
Number of Pages

Jane and her sister should live like nobles; they are after all ladies of a once-rich family. Despite their struggle to survive, Jane’s mother refuses to acknowledge the desperate state of the family. Jane and her sister are forced to take care of all the household chores, as well as care for the livestock and garden.

Jane doesn’t think life can get much worse until her mother suddenly appears with a new husband who has a spoiled daughter. Then the unthinkable happens, Jane’s step-father suddenly dies, leaving behind more debt and his demanding daughter. In order to provide enough food for her family, Jane must reach out to a mysterious group of wood people.

With a mother who doesn’t accept reality, two sisters to feed, and winter coming, Jane wonders if hunger will claim her family. When a surprise invitation to a royal ball is delivered, she begins a plan to get rid of her step-sister once and for all. However, this Cinderella story doesn’t end with the typical happy-ever-after.

The Stepsister’s Tale will pull readers into Cinderella’s time period. Although the tale has some similarities to Cinderella’s story, The Stepsister’s Tale is fresh and interesting. Told through the eyes of Jane, the reader can easily empathize with Jane’s struggle and her desire to provide for her family even if it means going against her mother’s idea of how a lady should act.

The ending of the tale is surprising but will leave the reader with a smile. The Stepsister’s Tale would be suitable for junior high readers as well as entertaining for more advanced readers. Because the story is a retelling of Cinderella and is also a unique, tame love story, the Stepsister’s Tale will appeal to a large range of readers.

Sexual Content

  • Jane shakes the hand of a boy, and she wishes the contact would continue. Then the boy “brought her hand to his lips . . . and kissed it gently. It was over so quickly that she thought she must have imagined it.” After he leaves Jane, “lingered in the hall, looking at the back of her hand, which his lips had touched. It didn’t look any different, although it tingled; and when she pressed her own lips to the spot, she tried to imagine what it would have been like if instead of that swift kiss, he had pulled her to him and bent his head to her face and—”
  • While at a fair, a boy kisses Jane. “His lips were on hers, and he was clasping her waist and gently pulling her closer to him . . . He turned his head and kissed her palm and then her forehead, and then each eyelid and then her mouth again.” The kiss ends when some girls see Jane and cruelly make fun of her.
  • When Jane is kissed she thinks, “it felt as though that kiss was something she had been waiting for, and the warm thrill of it made her forget, for a moment at least, the pain in her feet . . . ”


  • During this time period, poachers are taken by the king’s men. A boy tells how the king’s men try to trick people into poaching. “They slit the back of a deer’s hind leg so that it can do no more than hobble, and leave it near a path.” The king’s men then watch for someone to catch the dear and the poacher is taken away.
  • Isabella has to run away from the king’s men who are chasing her.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • The king throws a party where alcohol is served.


  • None


  • There is a short conversation about fairy-people. A character tries to explain why the fairy people harm people. “If we do something they don’t like, they’ll do something to pay us back, or if they’re bored, they’ll play a trick just to be irritating. Any harm isn’t done on purpose.”
  • There is a brief mention of the fairy people exchanging a human child for a changeling.

Spiritual Content

  • None
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