Xing Xing is the unwanted daughter from her father’s first marriage. Her father’s second wife had a daughter named Wei Ping and when her father dies, Xing Xing becomes a servant to the second wife. When her father was alive, he shunned the idea of binding young girls feet, in the common tradition. He felt women should be able to walk and move about, but once he is dead, the second wife can only think of making a fine marriage for her daughter Wei Ping. So even though she is much older than normal to bind feet, the mother does it.
Xing Xing is left to do all the work, since Wei Ping can no longer walk with her feet, and the Stepmother continues to treat Xing Xing horribly. Xing Xing’s only solace is escaping and talking with a fish she believes is her mother reincarnated and practicing her calligraphy when she can.
Then comes the cave festival in their town, but this year it will be different. For a local prince will be attending since he has yet to take a wife. Xing Xing only cares there will be a chance to recite a poem she creates. Yet, even with something exciting coming, it looks like she might not make it to the festival after all.
Bound by Donna Jo Napoli will become familiar to readers as a telling of another country’s Cinderella. Set in China at an indeterminate time, readers will understand Xing Xing’s frustrations with her limited world and root for an ending that will prove as wonderful as she is.
Recommended for 6th grade and up.