Harper Trophy, 1997. 978-0-06-027510-5
Synopsis: At birth, Ella is given the gift of obedience by the fairy Lucinda, meaning that if commanded or asked to do something, she must do it. She lives a comfortable life with her mother, her father (who is a merchant who travels frequently), and cook Mandy, who is Ella’s fairy godmother. Ella meets Prince Char at her mother’s funeral and the two make an instant connection because she can make him laugh. After her mother’s death, Ella is sent to finishing school with the daughters of one of her father’s acquaintances, Dame Olga. The daughters, Hattie and Olive, inadvertently discover that Ella must do whatever she is asked without question. Determined to lift the curse, Ella runs away from finishing school to try and find the fairy Lucinda.
Why I picked it up: Cursed princesses appeal to me.
Why I finished it: Being familiar with the original fairy tale, it is interesting to note the differences between the two. Possibly the most notable difference between Ella Enchanted and Cinderella is that one Cinderella is cursed and the other is not. The Cinderella in the original is far kinder to her stepfamily than Ella, who shows an open dislike for them while being a slave to their demands. Ella is open and honest about her stepfamily’s abuse, though her father chooses not to deal with the problem. Both Ella and Cinderella’s carriages are made from pumpkins, the horses transformed mice, the driver a transformed rat, and the footmen transformed lizards, the difference is who was doing the creating. Ella’s fairy godmother does not do anything over-the-top to help her, instead offering her advice about how to best handle her curse. Cinderella’s fairy godmother instantly appears when Cinderella needs her and does not function as a mentor but as a provider for the solution of not being able to go to the balls. Both stories have noxious stepfamilies, though one is described in more detail than the other. The advantage of Levine’s spin on a classic is that it is slightly more approachable than the original fairy tale, which, though it was written before the feature cartoon film, has the same flavor as the Disney movie we so fondly remember from our childhoods. What I liked about Ella is that she is her own hero – she’s not going to wait around for someone to rescue her, by golly, she’s going to rescue herself! It’s about accepting who you are and being willing to wave your own flag, regardless of what others might think or say.
Other related materials: Ella Enchanted (movie); Fairest by Gail Carson Levine; Ever by Gail Carson Levine; The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine; The Fairy’s Return and Other Princess Tales by Gail Carson Levine; The Princess Tales books by Gail Carson Levine; The Wish by Gail Carson Levine; Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan; Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles; The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop; The White Mountains by John Christopher; Princess Academy by Shannon Hale; The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo; Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George; The Enchanted Forest Chronicles books by Patricia C. Wrede