Ella Enchanted, Gail Carson Levine, HarperCollins Publishers, 1997, 232 pp
THE SUNDAY FAMILY READ
I have a house guest right now, a sister of my daughter-in-law's, about to begin her senior year of college. Having been a voracious reader since she learned to read, she is extremely well read and we've had wonderful wide-ranging book talks every day she has been here.
A couple weeks before she arrived, she mentioned she had reread Ella Enchanted, a book I had always meant to read. So I did and we got to discuss it right in my guest room/office.
It is a retelling of the Cinderella fairytale. Gail Carson Levine turned Ella into a much more interesting character than Walt Disney did. On the day she was born, Ella was put under a curse by the fairy Lucinda. It was meant to be a gift but Lucinda is a fractured fairy. The gift of obedience meant that whenever anyone spoke to Ella in the imperative mood (Stop crying. Go to sleep. Eat your spinach.), Ella was compelled to obey.
In fact, Ella reminded me so much of my goddaughter, a self-determined rebel against the status quo. And the agonies she experiences whenever she attempts to disobey a harmful order are made so real by the author. Of course, the point is that all children must break the spell of always doing what they are told if they want to live their own lives as adults.
The step-sisters, the prince, and the true fairy godmother, the pumpkin coach and the midnight cutoff are all there but tweaked just enough to make it good. Ella's quest to track down Lucinda and get the spell lifted is full of danger and excitement. I loved the way Ella and the Prince became attracted to each other; much more like a modern day romance.
I was enchanted.
(Ella Enchanted is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)