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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Gail Carson Levine Classic Is, Not Surprisingly, Enchanting

(Image from Indiebound)

If you're like me, you get dozens of book recommendations every week from various places - friends, family, book blogs, newspapers, magazines, publisher emails, etc. - so many that you can't possibly run out and read them all right now. Maybe you prioritize, reserving titles suggested by your sister ASAP, but sticking Uncle Bob's recommendations on the end of your TBR list. My husband is my Uncle Bob (not literally - eeewww). To hear him tell it, I reguarly ignore his book suggestions. Maybe he should take a page out of our oldest daughter's book: the other day, she said to me, "I wish you would read the books I ask you to read so that we could discuss them." Result? Instant guilt. I plucked the story under discussion right out of her hands and began to read it. And you know what? I'm going to pay more attention to her suggestions because Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine really was ... enchanting. Perhaps I should now read a pick from "Uncle Bob" just to see if I get similar results.

At first glance, Ella Enchanted didn't seem all that great. The cover's nothing special, the writing didn't make me gasp, and the story seemed ho hum. Until I got going. Then, I realized how unique and interesting its premise really is. The story goes a little something like this: As an infant, Ella receives a "blessing" from a mischievious fairy that compels her to always be obedient. The spell works, so well that if Ella's mother urges her to eat, she does so until commanded to stop. So total is her obedience that the "blessing" soon becomes a curse, one the tricky fairy refuses to undo. The curse is irritating, for sure, but only a minor convenience as Ella spends most of her time with her mother and the family's housekeeper, both of whom know about the spell and would never exploit little Ella. All that changes, however, when Ella's 14 and her mother dies. That's when a scheming Lady sets her sights upon Ella's father or, more specifically, on the riches that seem to be his. Her two daughters, equally as conniving, soon discover Ella's secret. Unlike Ella's early allies, they have no trouble taking advantage of her. Soon, Ella becomes little more than a servant to her new stepfamily. Her only hope lies in breaking the curse that forces her to obey even the vilest of commands. But that will not be an easy task; indeed, it may be impossible. Can she find a way to free herself or is she doomed to a life of toil with only the cinders to keep her company?

Interesting concept, right? And, as Ella searches for a solution to her predicament - encountering gnomes, giants, knights and, of course, a prince, along the way - the story becomes downright charming. It's fun, clever, and entertaining. I ended up enjoying it immensely.

When I shared my enthusiasm for Ella Enchanted with my daughter, she popped a fist on her hip and said, "See? I told you so!" And she did. Result: Lesson learned. Next time my daughter suggests I read a book, I will do it. Promptly. As for "Uncle Bob?" Let's just say, Man's Search for Meaning is now at the top of my TBR mountain.

(Readalikes: Other Cinderella retellings)

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: G

To the FTC, with love: I borrowed this book from my daughter, who received it, I believe, as a birthday gift from her great aunt.


  1. This is a great classic....there was a movie made in 2004 starring Anne Hathaway rated PG though. It is a fantasy comedy based on the book. For entertainment, we liked it when we saw it a couple of years ago. Have a good weekend.

  2. I'd like to read this one with my daughter. Bella at Midnight is a cute Cinderella retelling too.

  3. Love Ella! My husband always asks me to read Confederacy of Dunces. It REALLY is on my list -- it just never seems to make it to the top... and he reads a lot of what I recommend...

  4. This was and is still my daughter's favorite book from years back. As a matter of fact she wants to find the hardcover to keep in her own library. She passionately hated the movie though as she is a purist for the story. Don't ya love having reading as a bond with your daughter? I have been exposed to some awesome books because of the recommends of my kiddos ( at home AND school.) I am reading The Sisters Grill as a recommend right now. Gotta love it.

  5. That should be The Sisters Grimm. Gotta love my smartphone ;)

  6. I haven't read this book before, but I loved the movie! I receive so many recommendations from my friends and family, that its hard to keep up with all of them!

  7. Christy - Thanks for the head's up about the movie. I'm sticking it on my Netflix queue. Sounds like it will be perfect my daughter and me.

    Tricia - It's cute! Never heard of Bella at Midnight - I'll have to check it out.

    Annette - You sound like me :)

    Gaye - I do love having that bond with her. It's a lot of fun. She loves THE SISTERS GRIMM, by the way, and has been recommending it to me for the past few weeks!

    RR - It is. I have (literally) thousands of book recommendations on my TBR list. I'll never get through them all, even if I live to be 200!

  8. I recently read Just Ella. It's interesting how many takes there are on the Cinderella story!!!

  9. This was one of my daughter's favorites..she is now in college, sigh:)
    My husband reads pretty much exclusively mysteries, and I rarely read those, so we have stopped trying to make recommendations to each other, lol.

  10. I loved this book when I was in elementary school! My mom and younger sister read it when the movie came out and both agreed- the book is better than the movie! :)

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