Disclaimer: I received a physical finished copy from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.
Book: Ella Enchanted
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Book Series: Ella Enchanted Book 1
Recommended For…: middle grade readers, fantasy, retelling, Cinderella
Publication Date: September 1, 1998
Genre: MG Fantasy Retelling
Age Relevance: 12+ (child abuse, parental death, grief, eating disorder lingo, forced marriage, misogyny)
Explanation of Above: There is some vague mentioning of child abuse, as well as forced marriage and very slight and very vague grooming by an older man to our MC. There is also some very slight and very vague eating disorder lingo. There is some misogyny in the book as well as parental death being shown and grief.
Publisher: Scholastic Books
Synopsis: At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent young fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the “gift” of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. Another girl might have been cowed by this affliction, but not feisty Ella: “Instead of making me docile, Lucinda’s curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally.” When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent and avaricious father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella’s life and well-being seem to be in grave peril. But her intelligence and saucy nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery as she tries to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way. Yes, there is a pumpkin coach, a glass slipper, and a happily ever after, but this is the most remarkable, delightful, and profound version of Cinderella you’ll ever read.
Gail Carson Levine’s examination of traditional female roles in fairy tales takes some satisfying twists and deviations from the original. Ella is bound by obedience against her will, and takes matters in her own hands with ambition and verve. Her relationship with the prince is balanced and based on humor and mutual respect; in fact, it is she who ultimately rescues him. Ella Enchanted has won many well-deserved awards, including a Newbery Honor.
Review: For the most part this book was just as magical as I remembered it being. I loved the story and I still think this is an important story for ANY child to read regardless of gender. The story teaches about boundaries, which is something that should be taught at a young age. The world building was great, the character development was great, and I love Ella so much. Hands down, this will always be my favorite Cinderella retelling. I’m anticipating watching the movie now, if I can only convince my friends to watch and cry with me lol.
The only issue I had with the book is that some of the lingo used is very outdated. There are passages where the MC calls one of her step sisters ugly and states that her eating/overeating is what causes it. That should be revised and updated to reflect more body positivity standards. My opinion is that you can be ugly because of your horrible personality, but saying that you’re ugly cause you overeat or cause you’re stupid is horribly cruel and sends a bad message to young kids.
Verdict: It was great! Highly recommend!