I adore fairy tale retellings and anything to do with South Florida. So Alex Flinn’s Cloaked was a real winner for me. She had all the quirky South Beach and Keys characters that would do Carl Hiaasen proud. Flinn draws on several fairy tales, The Frog Prince, The Elves and the Shoemaker and the lesser known, The Six Swans and The Golden Bird.
Johnny is a cobbler. He fixes shoes of the rich and famous at a famous hotel in Miami. There isn’t money for college, so Johnny knows he will be doing this job for the rest of his life. He has a secret desire to design shoes and have a celebrity wear them. So when Victoriana, a party girl princess from Europe stays at the hotel, he finds his chance. But Victoriana has another task for him, help her find her brother who has been turned into a frog by a witch. If he succeeds, he gets to marry the princess. Great deal, right? His journey takes him to talking animals that are really transformed humans, a magic cloak that transports him anywhere and a scary biker bar. At the same time Johnny is dealing with his relationship with Meg, the girl who’s family owns the coffee shop next to the shoe repair shop. Meg has some magical secrets of her own.
I love how Flinn wove the story of the hotel swans and their role in the magical journey. This storyline was one of my favorites. I love South Florida and reading about her description of South Beach and the Keys makes me feel at home again. (I lived there for a couple of years.) When she describes the Underwater Hotel off Key Largo, I had to rush to the internet and look it up. It is very cool! It would be very easy for Johnny to fall in love with Victoriana. I’m glad Flinn took a different approach.
Some ideas for discussing with teens:
Discuss why Johnny may find Meg more appealing than Victoriana and the other way around.
Read aloud some of the fairy tale quotes at the beginning of the chapters and discuss.
Talk about the importance of shoes in fashion and in culture.
Why do we want things celebrities wear?
What did you think would happen when the fox asked Johnny to kill him? What would you have done?
Discuss the names of the six swans and how they relate to Key West.