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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Ella Enchanted

Author: Gail Carson Levine
Originally Published: 1997

Ella Enchanted

The simplest way to put it is that Ella Enchanted is a retelling of Cinderella with a bit of a twist. There are SO MANY retellings of Cinderella, but I think this story may have become one of my favourites.

Everyone knows the basic story of Cinderella (no doubt thanks to Disney’s cartoon adaptation of the story, with singing mice and everything), as with most well-known fairy tales. But it’s the always the original stories or the versions that deviate enough from the popular version that catch my interest. Take, for example, Gregory Maguire’s Tales of an Ugly Stepsister – the story of Cinderella as told from the point of view of one of the step sisters. Or the Brothers Grimm version of the story – Aschenputtel. Ella Enchanted is another version that stands out from other adaptations of the fairy tale by adding a fairy’s curse.

When Ella was born, the well-intending but extremely foolish fairy Lucinda gave Ella the “gift” (that term used very loosely in this instance) of obedience. Meaning that if anyone tells Ella to do something, she has to do it. While this doesn’t pose too many serious problems when Ella is growing up, after her mother dies things really start to get hard for Ella. Her soon-to-be stepsisters figure out that Ella has to do whatever she is told to and make her life positively miserable. Typical to the Cinderella story, Ella ends up practically slaving away for her stepmother and stepsisters. Also typical to the regular Cinderella story there are balls, and falling in love and all sorts of wonderful stuff.

Atypical to the regular stories, Ella has to figure out how to break the curse of obedience. That is where this version of Cinderella stands out from others.

I don’t know how I have not read this book before. I remember going to see the movie in theatres. I wasn’t too impressed (seriously? Anne Hathaway singing Queen? What would Freddie Mercury think of that?), but I had so many people stress that the book was so much better than the film. Still, I didn’t bother picking it up until last week. And then managed to read the whole thing in a manner of a few evenings.

It was an adorable book. It wasn’t hard to love Ella or Charm – they were both charming characters. Ella was a little snarky, and it was fun to see how she would rebel (in her own way) against the curse of obedience. I can definitely see why so many people really like this book.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 7:22 pm November 11, 2008.
Category: Children's
Book Author(s):

  • Memory

    This is my very favourite Cinderella story! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  • Court

    Memory – Thanks! I really did enjoy it. :)

  • sassymonkey

    I think I read this for the first time right before the movie came out (or maybe right after). I loved it. Hmmm I wonder what happened to my copy…

  • Nymeth

    I call myself a fairy tale lover and yet I’ve never read this book! Shame on me, I know. Thanks for the lovely review.

  • Court

    Sassymonkey – I’ve had that happen with a couple of books. Hope you can find your copy!

    Nymeth – I know what you mean; I’m a fairy tale and mythology lover, but have only read a fraction of what’s out there that I want to read. You’d enjoy this one!

  • marineko

    I’ve watched the movie, and while I enjoyed it I thought it was too simple to be a decent read! Reading your review, though, makes me want to try the book as well.

  • Tanya

    Thank you for reading this book in spite having seen the movie and thank you for writing a good review of it!! This was/is one of my favorite kid’s books and I was horrified to see what they did to it in the movie. I work in the kid’s department of a bookstore and am constantly telling little girls (and moms) that this book is much better than the movie they saw… For additional thoughts, I reviewed “Ella” recently on my blog.

    Have you read any Robin McKinley? She also re-tells fairy tales. “Beatuy” is my favorite by her She has retold Sleeping Beauty (in “Spindle’s End”) as well.

    Love your blog – can’t wait to read more. You’ve probably already covered this, but as a graphic designer, I’d love to hear your opinion on book covers. I always judge a book by it’s cover and sometimes will read one even though I find the cover unappealing or even hideous…

    Thanks – Tanya