Once again, I bring you a book that I probably wouldn’t have read if not for the faculty book club at my school. This month, we’re reprising an old theme and reading classic children’s books and/or books we’ve always meant to read but never made time for. I had loads of books to choose from, but I decided to go with Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.
I don’t know if Ella Enchanted can be called a classic–even though it was a Newbery Honor Book in 1998–but I have always meant to read it. After all, I do love a good fairy tale. I know there’s a movie adaptation out there–which I’ve never seen–so I figured I’d read the book and then see how the movie compares. Well, as of yesterday, I’ve completed one half of that equation.
Ella of Frell was burdened with a curse when she was born. A well-meaning fairy named Lucinda “gifted” Ella with obedience. From then on, Ella had to obey any direct command given to her. When she tried to disobey, she would be afflicted with terrible pains, and they could only be assuaged by doing as she was commanded.
It’s difficult for Ella to be true to herself when, at any time, her own will can be subverted. She does, however, find little ways to counter some of the commands sent her way. Ella’s true wish, though, is to find a way to break this horrible curse, once and for all.
Following the death of her mother, it’s more imperative than ever for Ella to find a way to break this curse, especially when her father unexpectedly marries a wretched woman, and Ella is forced to become little more than a servant to her new stepmother and two stepsisters.
Ella’s curse even causes her to break ties with her closest friend (and possibly the love of her life), Prince Char. If any one of Char’s enemies learns that she could be commanded to do anything, that could put Char at risk. Ella simply can’t allow that to happen.
Ella despairs of ever being free of this curse, but a series of events–including a few royal balls and a bit of fairy magic–may just change things. Ella may find that the power to break her loathsome curse lies within and only needs a little push to be gone from her life forever.
What will give Ella reason enough to break her curse? Find out when you read Ella Enchanted!
Ella Enchanted is, of course, a spin on the traditional Cinderella tale. Readers who enjoy fractured fairy tales or fairy tale retellings will delight in discovering the similarities to the tale they know and the differences that make this version so distinctive. They may even be prompted to seek out even more versions of the tale. Some novelizations that could pique interest are: Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George, Ash by Malinda Lo, and Cindy Ella by Robin Palmer, just to name a few.
I think Ella Enchanted is a great read for anyone in upper elementary grades on up. It’s fun, aggravating at times, and bewitching. It could lead to discussions on why being obedient could be seen as a bad thing or why the other “gifts” bestowed by Lucinda weren’t gifts at all.
All in all, I’m glad I finally read Ella Enchanted, and I will definitely recommend it to my students. Now, I have to settle in to watch the movie version and see how it compares to the book.
For more information on Ella Enchanted and other books by Gail Carson Levine, visit the author’s website.