Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ella Enchanted - Gail Carson Levine

Summary:  At her birth, Ella of Frell was the unfortunate recipient of a foolish fairy's gift -- the "gift" of obedience.  Ella must obey any order given to her, whether it's hopping on one foot for a day and a half, or chopping off her own head!  But strong-willed Ella does not tamely accept her fate.  Against a bold backdrop of princes, ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, and fairy godmothers, Ella goes on a quest to break the curse -- once and for all.  (Summary from book - Image from wikipedia.com)

My Review:  Ella of Frell was given the gift of obedience at birth by a well-meaning fairy.   Now, Ella does whatever she is told.  While the gift of obedience makes her a star pupil at finishing school, always following orders has its disadvantages.  If Ella is told to go jump in a lake, to treat others unkindly, or be someone’s slave, she has no choice in the matter.   When someone discovers  the secret of her obedience, Ella knows she will never be happy until she’s free of  her “gift” and sets out on a journey to find the fairy that started it all.

I read this book several years ago, and thought it was a very clever retelling of Cinderella, but until a few weeks ago the only Ella Enchanted my girls were familiar with was the movie starring Anne Hathaway.  As is sometimes the case with books and their movies versions – the two are very different.   They both share similar themes and characters, but there are some significant  differences in the details and  especially the ending.  Personally, I enjoyed the movie, but much prefer the book’s expanded storyline and alternate ending.   

It didn’t take long before I realized that the author’s writing style and expression was flying way over the head of my six-year-old and even slightly over the head of my eight-year-old.  I’m not surprised, since this book is recommended for 8 and up.  However, both girls understood enough of the story to follow along and liked it well enough to beg me to keep reading. 

Ella goes on many adventures and makes quite a few new friends, but, as always, my favorite part of this fairytale retelling was Ella herself – the smart, spirited and stubborn heroine, who puts the needs of others before her own and rescues herself in the process.  

**Ella Enchanted is a Newberry Honor Book, an ALA Notable Book for Children, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, and was voted Best Book of the Year by the School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly. 

My Rating: 4 Stars
For the sensitive reader:  It gets a little mushy towards the end, but that’s all there is to worry about.
Sum it up: A classic fairytale with an elaborate twist.

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