Novel: Ella Enchanted
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Target Audience: 8 to 12 years (but I find it much-beloved by older readers, too)
Publication Year: 1997
Setting: Kingdom of Kyrria; during the reign of King Jerrold and Queen Daria
A Favorite Quote: “That fool of a fairy Lucinda did not intend to lay a curse on me. She meant to bestow a gift.”
My One Sentence Summary: Ella is under a curse from a fairy–she must obey any orders given to her–which means that she will never have the life she wants…unless she can finds a way to break the enchantment.
What I loved about this book: I love fairy tales, so it was no surprise when I fell in love with Levine’s retelling of Cinderella. But unlike most Cinderella stories, this version explains why Cinderella doesn’t fight back and why she obeys her stepmother. Ella is a fresh, modern interpretation of one of the world’s most beloved and universal stories. This retelling is marked by humor, a well-constructed world, and an endearing voice. The characters are likable (well, most of them). I adore Prince Char and Ella–both individually and together.
Major themes: Being true to oneself; autonomy of the individual; the integrity of doing what is right for others over doing what is easiest for yourself
Who should read this book: This is a must-read for anyone who loves fairy tales, fantasy, and romance. It is especially popular with some of the middle school girls I have taught. (Side note: a movie version came out in 2004, but it is extremely different from the novel.)