Reviews of children's and young adult books old and new

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Ella was given a gift at her birth by the fairy Lucinda, Ella would always be obedient. This meant that no matter what, Ella would have to obey every command that was given to her regardless of her own opinion or needs. After her mother's death Ella was mostly cared for by her mother's friend and servant Mandy. Ella wanted nothing more than to be free of her curse, and she spent a great deal of her time trying to accomplish this. When he father returns home from a business trip married to a woman with two daughter Ella is worried that her secret will get out. Unable to stand her two new stepsisters Ella decides it is time to find Lucinda and beg her to remove the curse. While on her quest he meets the young prince of the kingdom, Char. Char is trying to meet his people before he becomes king, he and Ella disagree about his treatment of other magical beginnings and an unlikely friendship begins. Can Ella get rid of this curse and will she be rid of her awful step sisters?

I remember reading this book and falling in love the world that Levine creates. A student teacher at the time I decided to read the book aloud to my class of fourth graders. My cooperating teacher was skeptical the book could hold the boy's attention for 10-15 minutes a day but I was confident there was enough adventure to counter balance the stigma of having to hear a "Cinderella" book. I was right, the boys did not want to admit it but they were enthralled every day by the adventures and misunderstanding Ella found herself in. It was great to watch the boys really get into the story and they were always the ones who complained the loudest if for some reason the read aloud time was cut short. Ella is smart and intelligent with a kind heart and a sense of danger. She decides to take charge of her life and tries to get her curse/gift removed. There is a rich world that Levine creates full of other magical creature some good some bad and some like most of us in the middle. This is not your typical Cinderella story and it is so much better for it! I highly recommend for girls or boys ages 9-12.

There was a movie version made of this book a few years ago and I can tell you that the movie was much worse. Now I know people say that all the time but this really was a horrid interpretation of the book. Very few of the details from the book made it into the movie aside from the names of the characters. I am a big fan of kid's movies and like the cast they assembled but the script was awful and too far from the book to be saved by Levine's clever characters. If you love the book I would not recommend the movie and if you loved the movie the book is going to be a very different experience but one that I think you will enjoy.

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