Happy Friday, everyone!
I am really excited about my review today. Lately, I’ve been on a children’s literature kick. When we go to the library, I seem to always find a children’s novel that I haven’t read before. Today I get to review one of my recent favorites: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.
I’m not sure if this was my first or second time reading this novel. I feel like I might have read it before but most details and plot twists felt new to me this time. Regardless, this book is a classic for me. It’s a Newbery Honor book after all. I just bought it last weekend at Half Price Books because it’s definitely worth adding to my library.
- This novel is a quick read–great for new readers. But it also offers a lot of fun characters and action in those few pages.
- I have to separate the movie from the book. I enjoy the movie and I enjoy the book. They are pretty different and I can appreciate them both for different reasons. Just know that if you are reading this after seeing the movie, they are not the same.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is the story of Ella of Frell–a young girl who receives the “gift” of obedience as a baby from a rather ridiculous fairy named Lucinda. As Ella grows up, she learns ways to resist the “gift” and the importance of keeping it a secret. After her mother dies, Ella decides she must break the curse if she ever wants to live a normal life. She must find Lucinda. But life takes several unexpected turns as Ella is sent to boarding school with her future obnoxious and dimwitted stepsisters, Hattie and Olive; she attends a giant’s wedding; and she finds her friendship with Prince Char turning into something more. Can she ever get rid of the curse? And what will she have to give up to along the way?
Ella is such a darling protagonist. She is brave, silly, smart, and determined. She is happy to be herself and embraces who she is–even if it’s not what the society around her expects. I love the way she sees the best in the world and wants to learn from others in her world–the elves, giants, and more. She loves languages which I think is so fun too. Best of all, she is still a child, so she has an unwavering hope in the future. Yes, finding and convincing Lucinda to take back the obedience gift is hard, nearly impossible, but Ella tries anyways. Yes, finding a way to save Char from her step-family and still love him is terribly hard, but she manages to find a way. I love reading about Ella’s adventures and how much she learns along the way.
Levine gives us a colorful cast of characters to entertain us along Ella’s quest for freedom. I love her friendship that blossoms into love with Prince Char. He is a sincere and kind person. I love Mandy’s stubbornness and cleverness as a fairy and as a friend. I even love the ridiculous antics of Ella’s stepsisters, Hattie and Olive, who are almost too ridiculous to be believable but are also just fun to read about. Hattie’s hair had my laughing out loud. We also get to meet some of Ella’s new friends (and enemies)of the elves, ogres, and giants. I enjoyed Levine’s clever ability to create all sorts of likable characters throughout the story.
The simplicity and cleverness of the fantasy world creates a perfect backdrop for the story. We are thrown right into the setting which feels like our world with some fun twists. There is just enough magic to make life unexpected, but not enough to make it too complicated. There are different creatures that Ella and others interact with as casually as we do with other people. But their customs and languages surprise readers on every page. This was a setting I want to live in–to explore and to appreciate and to experience for myself.
The story is equally simple and enjoyable. I didn’t realize that this novel is a twist on the classic Cinderella story. I really enjoyed the ways Levine uses the classic story as she weaves her own tale. There are glass slippers, a fairy godmother, even a ball including dances with the Prince. But none of these comes in the ways lovers of the classic fairy tale expect. And that makes the story all the more endearing for me. I was cheering for Ella from page one, but the unexpected journey she makes to find her happily ever after is as fulfilling as the actual ending.
A few favorite quotes that I find rather profound, especially for a children’s fantasy story:
“It is helpful to know the proper way to behave, so one can decide whether or not to be proper.”
“Are you still too young to marry?”
“I wished she’d never stop squeezing me. I wished I could spend the rest of my life as a child, being slightly crushed by someone who loved me.”
“He loved me. He’d loved me as long as he he’d known me! I hadn’t loved him as long perhaps, but now I loved him equally well, or better. I loved his laugh, his handwriting, his steady gaze, his honorableness, his freckles, his appreciation of my jokes, his hands, his determination that I should know the worst of him. And, most of all, shameful though it might be, I loved his love for me.”
Ella Enchanted, taken from Goodreads
I was surprised by how quickly the novel ended. If I had one qualm about the novel as a whole, it would be that the ending is almost too fast. I wanted more details about how it all comes together. Or perhaps I expected it to be a bit more complicated. But in hindsight, I see how that would not fit in with the rest of the story. The story is simple. The setting is simple. Really, the characters are pretty simple as well. Good characters are always good. And the mean/rude characters don’t change either. So the ending fits. Because like all the elements of the story, it’s simple.
As delightful as it is clever, Ella Enchanted is a book for everyone and all ages. I can’t recommend it highly enough!
What are some of your favorite children’s novels?