Reviews for Ella Enchanted


The Book Report Reviews 1998 January-February
This is a modern take on an old fairy tale. In a kingdom populated by people, ogres, gnomes, and giants, Ella was "blessed" by a fairy at her birth making her obedient. This blessing, however, is truly a curse, for Ella must do everything that she is told to do. This is a retelling of an old fairy tale with many new twists, most importantly a heroine with a mind of her own. She is independent, intelligent, humorous, and concerned about other people. Some new elements have been added to the Cinderella story, but the basics are there: the ugly, envious stepsisters; Prince Charming; an evil spell; the glass slipper and pumpkin coach. The plot is involved but fast-moving. With the addition of trolls, gnomes, unicorns, and fairies, the story takes on the qualities of a fantasy, rather than a fairy tale, and could be sold to students as such. Let them discover on their own that it is actually a fairy tale. Recommended. Lee Diane Gordon, Eldorado High School, Las Vegas, Nevada © 1998 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 April 1997
/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 5^-8. The canon of retold fairy tales encompasses some distinguished titles, among them, Robin McKinley's Beauty (1978) and Donna J. Napoli's Zel (1996). Now room must be made for Levine's superbly plotted and thoroughly enjoyable retelling of the Cinderella story. Ella is blessed by a fairy at birth with the gift of obedience. But the blessing is a horror for Ella, who must literally do what everyone tells her, from sweeping the floor to giving up a beloved heirloom necklace. After her mother dies, and her covetous, caustic father leaves on a trading trip, Ella's world is turned upside down. She battles both ogres and wicked stepsisters, makes friends and loses them, and must deny her love for her prince, Charmant, to save his life and his realm. In making this ultimate sacrifice, she breaks the curse. As a beloved friend tells her, "You rescued yourself when you rescued the prince." As finely designed as a tapestry, Ella's story both neatly incorporates elements of the original tale and mightily expands them, not only with the myriad consequences of the curse but also with a heroine so spirited that she wins readers' hearts. ((Reviewed April 15, 1997)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 1997
Cursed at birth with the gift of obedience by an irresponsible fairy, Ella is powerless to resist the commands of others. Expert characterization and original ideas enliven this novelization of ""Cinderella."" Built around the traditional elements of the fairy tale and at times limited by those restraints, the retelling boasts an admirable heroine who discovers her inner strength by combating her greatest weakness. Copyright 1998 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 1997 #3
Cursed at birth with the gift of obedience by an irresponsible fairy, Ella is powerless to resist the commands of others. Witty and willful, Ella has managed to hide her affliction from the rest of the world, but when her beloved mother dies, she is sent to a finishing school by her merchant father and finds herself at the mercy of the despicable Lady Hattie, who has discovered her secret. Determined to reverse the spell, Ella runs away from school in search of the offending fairy. Along the way she encounters elves, ogres, giants (all imaginatively rendered by Levine), and a company of knights led by Prince Charmont, who clearly finds the plucky heroine completely enchanting. But Ella's plan fizzles, and her father sends her to live with her new stepmother and stepsisters-one of whom is Lady Hattie-who consign her to the kitchen as a scullery maid. Expert characterization and original ideas enliven this novelization of "Cinderella." Built around the traditional elements of the fairy tale-including the fairy godmother, glass slippers, pumpkin coach, and royal balls-and at times limited by those restraints, the retelling boasts an admirable heroine who discovers her inner strength by combating her greatest weakness. anne deifendeiferCopyright 1998 Horn Book Magazine Reviews

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 1997 March #5
Levine's artful debut novel features a spunky heroine whose trials, all faced with admirable steadiness, give new twists to the classic Cinderella story. Ella is burdened with a curse (she cannot disobey a command), bestowed at birth as a gift from an addled fairy and this plus the loss of her beloved mother causes all sorts of troubles. Before her death, Ella's mother commands her daughter to keep the curse a secret only the cook, Mandy, who is also a fairy, knows the truth. Although Mandy won't use what she calls "big magic," she does give Ella a magical book that, through glimpses of other people's correspondence, lets her see what is going on in the lives of her new friend, Prince Charmont, her soon-to-be stepsisters and her greedy father. Levine ably creates tension between the good and evil characters, throwing in an assortment of ogres, elves and gnomes. Young readers will be charmed by the budding romance between Ella and her prince and touched by her crippling fear of hurting the prince via the curse. After a humorous and inventive re-enactment of Cinderella's three appearances at the royal ball, the action concludes with a slightly skewed but happy ending. Although the pace of the story flags in spots, and the author never wholly engages a suspension of disbelief (Ella's for example, when she tames ogres who want to make a meal of her), Levine provides a winning combination of memorable characters and an alluring fantasy realm that will leave readers with hopes of future tales of Ella and Prince Char. Ages 8-12. (May) Copyright 1998 Publishers Weekly Reviews

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School Library Journal Reviews 1997 April
The "Cinderella" story is the jumping-off point for an original novel that nevertheless remains grounded in the traditional fairy tale. The plot turns upon a most unwelcome gift, bestowed on Ella at birth by the foolish fairy Lucinda: Ella must always be obedient no matter what the command. When her mother dies, Ella's life takes a definite turn for the worse. She soon meets Dame Olga and her two disagreeable daughters, who will obviously become the wicked stepsisters. There is much of this story to unfold before that happens, however. Ella becomes a good friend of Prince Char, heir apparent to the throne; is sent off to finishing school; and goes on a journey among ogres and giants in search of Lucinda in the hope of having her gift rescinded. When Ella and Prince Char are about to declare their love for one another, she realizes that she could endanger the entire kingdom and she renounces her feelings for him. How these difficulties resolve themselves into a "happily ever after" ending makes for absorbing reading. Ella is a delightful young woman, bright, witty, and resourceful. Prince Char is everything a good prince should be yet comes off as a credible character. The stepmother and sisters are appropriately avaricious, mean-spirited, and selfish. Like Robin McKinley's Beauty (HarperCollins, 1978) and Donna Jo Napoli's Zel (Dutton, 1996), this is a rich and creative retelling of a fairy tale. It is lighter in tone than those novels, however, having more in common with the fractured fairy tales of William Brooke. A thoroughly enchanting novel that deepens and enriches the original tale. Copyright 1998 School Library Journal Reviews

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School Library Journal Reviews 1997 December
Gr 5-8 Cinderella meets Goody Two-shoes in this tale about a girl cursed by the "gift" of obedience. Ella is, nonetheless, a take-charge, intuitive heroine who, despite her love for Prince Char, learns how to just say, "no." (Apr.) Copyright 1998 School Library Journal Reviews

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VOYA Reviews 1997 #4
This retelling of Cinderella takes place in the land of Kyrria during the once-upon-a-time period, with elves, centaurs, ogres, gnomes, and fairies. Ella is a spunky fifteen-year-old whose story begins after her mother has died from a bad cold. Ellawas cursed at birth with obedience, although the fairy Lucinda intended it as a blessing. If Ella does not do as she is told, she begins to fell nauseated. Only Ella and the cook, Mandy, are aware of the curse, and Ella's mother had commanded hernever to tell anyone else. Ella defies her obedience with small battles, only partially obeying commands. Her estranged father, Sir Peter, commands her to come closer, so she takes only one step. Mandy tells her to hold a bowl still, which she doeswhile hopping on one foot. Ella meets Prince Charmont of Kyrria at her mother's funeral. Ella's future stepmother and stepsisters, Dame Olga, Lady Hattie, and Lady Olive, also are introduced to readers in the funeral scene. Soon after the funeral, Ella's father, a wealthy,dishonest merchant who finds his daughter clumsy and unmannerly, sends her to finishing school with the two sisters. But Ella, determined to find Lucinda so that she can undo the fairy spell, escapes finishing school despite the risks of travel. Sheovercomes an ogre attack with the help of Prince Charmont (Char), who is enchanted by her wit, not her obedience. Still, Lucinda will not undo her "blessing."Levine transforms her fairy tale characters so that the CinderElla story is concealed until the nineteenth chapter, when Sir Peter announces his marriage plans and the traditional story takes shape. A careful reader might begin seeing similarities asearly as chapter four, when Mandy explains to Ella that she was her mother's fairy godmother as well as Ella's. Ella endures her stepfamily, who soon discover her obedient behavior and uses it to their advantage. You know the rest. Eventually, Ella'sconvictions are strong enough to undo the spell. She refuses to obey Char's command to marry him because her obedience could mean danger to the whole kingdom. Now, she is free to choose whether she wants to marry.The characters' personalities and motives are comically crystal clear, but never boring. It is a magical bridge of fantasy and romance that will keep romance fans reading, but the plot is not intriguing enough to keep a die-hard fantasy faninterested. There are two loose ends that will leave the reader feeling cheated and wanting more, even though the book is longer than traditional formula romance. Ella takes a fairy-made carpet with her to the finishing school but the carpet nevercomes back into the story. Magical belongings taken on a journey are usually powerfully purposeful somewhere along the way. The reader is left wondering: What is the point of the rug? Also, the glass slippers are forced into the story when Char andElla happen to find them while exploring a castle during Sir Peter's and Dame Olga's wedding. Where did the slippers come from? Who put them there? Why were they laying with old gardening tools? And why aren't Char and Ella more curious about theslippers since Char mentions just three pages before that his father, the king, was raised in that very castle? Readers of this lighthearted story will probably be few, but they will be cheering for Ella all the way through to her happily everafter.-Nancy Thackaberry. Copyright 1997 Voya Reviews

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