“Ella Enchanted” by Gail Carson Levine is a captivating classic and a 1998 Newbery Honor book. I’ll be honest, I’ve been avoiding this book for a very long time. Even as a little girl, I wasn’t very interested in Disney princess movies or fairy tales, and when I saw the cover for “Ella Enchanted”, naturally, I shied away. I know, I know, don’t judge a book by its cover! Now that I finally decided to open it up and dive in, I can’t believe I waited so long!
Ella of Frell is not your typical fairy tale princess. In fact, she doesn’t become a princess until the very end of the novel, and even then, she turns the title on its head and chooses a more suitable role for herself. Ella is cursed and has been for the majority of her life. She is cursed to be obedient, no matter what. This creates a plethora of problems for the heroine. Ella journeys through her land to find the fairy godmother who bestowed such a “gift” on her in hopes that she will renounce the curse.
“Ella Enchanted” is a well-written fractured fairy tale, including gnomes, giants, ogres, kings, castles, and of course, a handsome prince. The characters have depth and believable qualities, and the writing is fantastic! There were even moments where the storyline caught me off guard. I love it when a story can surprise me, especially considering its based off the well-known Cinderella.
Recommended Age Group?
The back of the book says 8 and up, however I would increase the age to 10 and up. This is not to say that 8 or 9-year-olds wouldn’t enjoy the story, because most would, but they might not understand or enjoy the themes as much as an older child would.
One of the larger themes in this novel is selflessness. Ella makes some very difficult choices to protect those she loves. Many times, I found myself wondering what I would have done if I had been in her shoes. I also love how the prince is portrayed in this novel. It’s clear that he’s not just after a beautiful maiden, but after someone with a fun and spirited personality. One of the things I love the most about the character of Ella is that she’s not a complainer. Imagine being cursed with the gift of obedience. You must be obedient in every command: go here, do that, wear this…it would feel as though your life is not your own. Ella rarely complains about her obedience, and when she does, she does so in a serious manner, reflecting on the fact that her obedience is about to hurt someone. Ella is a fantastic example for readers, as she’s smart, kind, funny, loving, independent, and able to solve her own problems. Go Ella!
This book is definitely classroom-approved, but best suited for grades 4-8. Keep in mind, this is a fractured fairy tale based on Cinderella, and the ending includes a kiss between the prince and the soon-to-be princess (Ella). It isn’t described in detail, but you may get some “ewws” or “yucks” from your students!
I highly recommend this read, and I truly hope you enjoy the character of Ella as much as I did.