Skip to main content

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, 232 pp RL5

Before this review, I am compelled to beg you: 

I first read Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine more than ten years ago and fell in love with it instantly. This was a bit after the Harry Potter juggernaut got rolling and I remember telling people (and I still do) that, after Rowling's series, Ella Enchanted, winner of the Newbery Honor, is my favorite book. Of course, comparing the two is like apples and oranges, but both authors express great talent in creating whole new vividly drawn, magical universes complete with different creatures with their own languages and cultures. And, while I feel like Gail Carson Levine has yet to match the wonder of Ella Enchanted with any of her other books, of which there are several, this book remains a shining example of great writing in the young adult fantasy genre. Although I have tried to block any memories of the movie version of this book from my mind, I do seem to remember that it was turned into a silly, frolicksome romp that had nothing of the spirit of the book and added some overly mature teenage bits in an effort to attract a larger audience. Ever After with Drew Barrymore was more in the spirit of the book than the movie version of it was, although Hugh Dancy as Prince Char was a tad more attractive than Dougray Scott as Prince Henry in Ever After.

The basic plot of the book is taken from the Cinderella fairy tale in which a young girl loses her mother and is enslaved by her stepmother and horrible stepsisters. The wonderful twist that the author brings to this story is the role of fairy godmother. Present at the christening, Lucinda, a vain and thoughtless fairy gives the crying infant Ella the gift of obedience, which turns out to be a curse. Ella must do whatever she is told. Quickly realizing the danger in this, Ella's mother and her cook Mandy decide to keep this a secret. However, when Ella's mother dies and her secret is found out by her future stepsister as the girls travel to finishing school, Ella decides to go in search of Lucinda to see if she can take back or alter her "gift." But not before befriending Prince Charmont, who is everything a good prince should be and also a credible, likable character.

With the magical book of fairy tales given to her by Mandy, Ella can read the correspondence of others as well as glimpse bits of their lives. While the book doesn't help her track down Lucinda, it does help her to feel connected to those she loves and stay one step ahead of her scheming stepsisters and father who plans to marry her off to the richest, oldest Duke he can find. Ella has a gift for languages, which she exhibits when she rescues a gnome child from an ogre by speaking gnomish. While at school, she studies Ogrese, Kyrrian, Elfian and Ayorthian, the language of her new friend, Areida, all of which are spoken in the book. This serves her well on her journey, which includes being captured by Ogres, whom she enchants with her command of their language and attnding a giant's wedding where she finds Lucinda. Mystified as to why anyone would not want the gift of obedience, Lucinda tells Ella that she should be "happy to be blessed with such a lovely quality." This almost does Ella in when she is compelled to obey Lucinda's words, until Mandy commands her not to be happy about her gift. The story continues with twists and turns and a growing friendship between Ella and Prince Char that I could detail endlessly, but I want you to be surprised by the story, the resolution of which is very satisfying. Ella stays true to her intelligent, independent, brave nature and finds a way to save herself from her curse/gift.

Similar to Robin McKinley's Beauty, Ella Enchanted is an in depth retelling of a familiar fairy tale. Ella seems younger than Beauty, three years younger if I am correct, and her story is a bit more lighthearted. What struck me most when I first read this book, was what a determined, self-empowered character she is, even rescuing the prince and his retinue at one point. While the world of young adult literature has become populated with more and more strong girl characters since Ella stepped on the scene in 1997, I think she remains one of the most creative, enchanting characters in literature.

If your liked this book, I suggest:

The Castle Cornoa by Sharon Creech
A Barrel of Laughs: A Vale of Tears by Jule Feiffer
Beauty by Robin Mckinley
The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald


Cathy said…
I love Dougray Scott!
Tanya said…
Notice I said a TAD more attractive. No disrespect meant to the handsome Scottish actor...

Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!


How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers remains the most read post on my blog since I wrote it in 2012. Because of this, I have cleaned up this post, tightened the writing and added in any pertinent information that has come about since it originally ran. When I first started in August of 2008, I was scrambling for content, finding my purpose and my voice and not always doing my best writing. How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers was one of the first articles I wrote and, as a bookseller and a book reviewer, and now as an elementary school librarian where I have gone from working with kids reading well beyond their grade level to kids reading well below, this philosophy remains my organizing principle and central focus when reading and recommending books to parents and children. 

In the interest of my mission and the attention this article continues to receive, I have updated and expanded this article and included a guide to using …

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…