Levine, Gail Carson. Ella Enchanted. HarperCollins, 1997. ISBN 0-06-027510-3. $14.95. 232 pp.” 4+ FI Reviewed by Vicky M. Turner That fool of a fairy Lucinda did not intend to lay a curse on me. She meant to bestow a gift. When I cried inconsolably through my first hour of life, my tears were her inspiration. Shaking her head sympathetically at Mother, the fairy touched my nose.”My gift is obedience. Ella will always be obedient. Now stop crying, child.” I stopped. And so the story of Ella (Eleanor) of Frell begins. This is a richly worded “Cinderella” story. It follows the basic outline of any “Cinderella” story-the fairy bestows a gift; the girl grows into a beautiful young woman; her father is not around much (in this case he is a traveling salesman); her father marries a woman with two daughters; she is granted her wish of going to the ball by her fairy godmother and does so in an orange colored coach; and she marries the prince. But this is not any ordinary “Cinderella” story. Ella is a real-life girl with one problem: she has to obey if anyone gives her a command-even if it means her death or the death of someone she loves. She learns early on not to tell anyone that she must obey, but people figure it out anyway. One of the first to know is her stepsister Hattie. Hattie seems not to realize the extent of Ella's “gift,” and she uses it for simple fetch-and-carry things. When Ella falls in love with the prince Charmont, or “Char” to his friends, Ella realizes that if she marries him it may ruin not only their lives, but also the kingdom of Frell. Ella decides to seek out Lucinda and have her take back the gift. Along the way she meets elves, ogres, giants and even ordinary people-some who realize she must obey and others who think she is just a charming child. This book is beautifully worded, and the twists to the story are delightful. Read this one-maybe even read it aloud to a group of children who know the “Cinderella” tale. See if they don't love it too!
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