Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Goodreads: Ella Enchanted
Summary: At birth Ella was cursed by the fairy Lucinda with the gift of obedience. She has to follow any order given by anybody, even if she receives a command that endangers her or others. Determined to gain her freedom, Ella sets out on a journey to find Lucinda and beg her to take back her gift. Rescue, however, may come from a more unexpected quarter. A Newbery Honor book.
Review: Ella Enchanted stands out among retellings of “Cinderella” both for its original premise and its fully-realized world. Levine takes the question of why Cinderella would submit to so much abuse from her step-relatives and answers it by suggesting that perhaps she literally had no choice. From there, the book explores the nature of free will and the gift of choice. The resulting drama plays out across a richly detailed world peopled with unforgettable characters from the ogres who can seduce their victims to cook themselves to the giants who prove friendlier than readers might expect. Readers will find themselves, like Ella, enchanted.
Much of the book’s charm stems from Levine’s quirky and wry sense of humor. Though Ella suffers under the rule of her step-relatives and from the neglect of her father, Levine manages to make these characters as funny as they are odious. Their obsessions with wealth, power, looks, and status set them up as the objects of various jokes, making the subtle point that a person can never gain respect by focusing on these false idols. Instead, the book celebrates virtues such as love, loyalty, honesty, and generosity, all so naturally that Levine never seems to be moralizing.
With its spirited heroine, intriguing premise, and heart-wrenching emotion, Ella Enchanted proves a timeless tale that bears repeated readings. It has rightfully taken a place among the classics of children’s literature.
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