Ella Enchanted celebrated its 20 year anniversary this year. Twenty years!!! God, that makes me feel old. But chances are, even if you aren’t in your twenties, you have probably read Ella Enchanted. It is absolutely destined to be a classic.
I first read Ella in the fifth grade, I think. It was a Bluebonnet nominee, and we were encouraged to read as many Bluebonnet books as possible. For those of you who aren’t from the great state of Texas, the Texas Bluebonnet Award book is kind of like any other kids’ book award, except that kids get to vote on the winners, which I think is pretty dang cool.
Anyway, the year 2000 was a pretty good year for Bluebonnet books, and I enjoyed every single book that I read. But when it came time to vote, I didn’t even hesitate.
Ella Enchanted remains one of my favorite books to this day. It’s the book I read in the hospital when my son was born. It’s the book I recommend to a student when they need to borrow a book off my shelf for the afternoon. I tried to get my husband to read it, which was, sadly, not a success. And I can’t wait to share it with my own kids when they’re old enough.
What You Need to Know
It’s a Cinderella Story … sort of
While yes, it does cover (cinder)Ella going to the ball, having to leave at midnight, and leaving behind a shoe, that’s really only the last twenty-five pages or so. The vast majority of the book would give you no clue that it had anything to do with the fairy tale.
That being said, I absolutely adore fairy tale re-tellings, and this is my favorite Cinderella one. Book or movie. Nothing else comes close.
It follows Ella, who has been “blessed” by a fairy with the gift of obedience. If somebody tells Ella to do something she has to do it. Some blessing, right? In her quest to lift the spell Ella makes friends, tames ogres, learns which fork to use on mutton, and eventually falls in love. It would be a beautiful fairy tale even if it didn’t have the Cinderella bit at the end.
Ella is one sassy maiden.
One of the best things about Ella Enchanted is Ella herself. She is funny, spunky, and doesn’t take nothing from nobody. Though she has to obey, she doesn’t have to like it, and she really doesn’t mind saying so. Her defiance repeatedly gets her in trouble, but it also saves her life a fair couple of times. Ella is one of my favorite characters in children’s literature.
This isn’t one of those books that is all about magic, or magical creatures. They’re just kind of there. But the world Gail Carson Levine created is so interesting and unique. Fairies, for example, look more or less like people, except that they have remarkable tiny feet. And they defy our expectations by refusing to use “big magic”. With the exception of the fairy that puts the spell on Ella, they only do small magic, like cleaning up broken pots, or making especially yummy food.
Ogres still like to eat people, but they have persuasive voices. An ogre can sense your deepest secrets when it gets too close, and can use its honey-sweet voice to convince you to come to it. Soldiers have to stuff their ears full of wax when fighting ogres.
Gail Carson Levine uses creatures we are used to reading about, but changes them just slightly here and there to create her own little world. You can really lose yourself in the book because the world is so rich and feels so real.
It’s a Newbery Honor Book.
And it’s won countless other awards. I could list them all, or you could just check out Goodreads and see for yourself. But when a book wins that a Newbery, you know there’s something special.
There have been several different covers.
While the first cover is undoubtedly the best, I’m fairly certain they don’t publish it that way anymore. However, some of you may recognize some of the other covers.
Do NOT, under any circumstances, watch the movie.
I’m telling you, just don’t do it. You’ll find yourself thinking of reasons to watch. “It’s got Anne Hathaway in it!” “I haven’t even read the book, so how would I know the difference?” “It looks cute. And I hear it has a musical number.” Just don’t!
And this is not a disgruntled fan who hates movie adaptations speaking. I love movie adaptations! But aside from this movie having absolutely nothing to do with the book, IT IS A TERRIBLE FILM. Seriously, it’s awful. The characters are obnoxious, the acting is kind of terrible, the story is stupid. Just trust me on this one. Don’t watch the movie.