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Ilene Cooper (Booklist, April 15, 1997 (Vol. 93, No. 16))
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. Category: Older Readers. 1997, HarperCollins, $14.95 and $14.89. Gr. 5-8. Starred Review.
Susie Wilde (Children's Literature)
Gail Levine, who won a well-deserved Newbery honor award in for Ella Enchanted, may have inspired some recent Cinderella stories. This story, which is new in paperback, seems to be the retelling response of an author who loves fairy tales, but hates Cinderella's wimpy character. Levine's Ella is compliant because she lives under the curse of a fairy who's given her a birth "gift" of obedience. As the plot unwinds, it explains all the traditional elements in an untraditional way, as Ella, an adventuresome linguist, takes us around her world of ogres, giants, and magical creatures. She uses wit and humor that win her the heart of the hero, Prince Charm, and lots of new reading fans, too! 1999, HarperTrophy, $5.95. Ages 8 to 12.
Jan Lieberman (Children's Literature)
When the fairy Lucinda bestows the "gift" of obedience on Ella at birth, she had not foreseen the horror that would be Ella's life. Imagine having to follow every command. "Jump off the cliff!" "EAT!" She could even be made to betray her kingdom. Ella is a take charge heroine who weaves her own magic spell as she confronts ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, and a charming prince with cleverness and determination. This deserves book of the year with its winning combination of humor and adventure. 1997, HarperCollins, $14.95, $14.89 and $4.95. Ages 8 to 12.
Carolyn Mott Ford (Children's Literature)
In a world populated with elves, gnomes and ogres, a young girl lives under the spell of the fairy Lucinda. The spell decrees that Ella must always be obedient. Lucinda meant it to be a gift, but it is a curse. As Ella grows up, she is forced to obey, not merely just orders, but any order put to her directly. This leads to dreadful consequences after her mother's death and her father's remarriage. Enter the evil stepmother, two unattractive, crude stepsisters and a handsome prince. In a take off on Cinderella, Ella dances the night away in glass slippers and finally finds the strength to break the spell. The underlying message is that little girls are told from birth to be nice and obedient, but at some point, women must take control of their own lives. Written for ages 8 and up, the vocabulary level is a bit high and the death of the mother in the beginning of the book could be troubling to a child of 8 or 9. 1997, HarperCollins, $14.95 and $14.89. Ages 8 up.
Mary Sue Preissner (Children's Literature)
Obedience. That was her curse. Upon birth, the fairy Lucinda bestowed the gift of obedience on Ella, which very nearly wrecked her life. Fortunately for her, two-chinned, frizzy-haired Mandy was more than the housekeeper, cook and nanny. While Mandy couldn't prevent problems for Ella, she was able to give her fairy gifts that enabled Ella to help herself. This "expansion" of the classic Cinderella tale will delight middle school readers with its magic, action, humor, drama, and hint of romance. 1997, HarperCollins, $14.95 and $14.89. Ages 9 to 14.
Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, 1997)
Levine plays her debut expansion of the Cinderella story as a straight--well, nearly straight--romance, sloughing off its layers of Freudian symbolism and creating a lively, stubborn heroine to keep the action tumbling along. Lucinda, an extraordinarily foolish fairy, bestows on baby Eleanor the gift of obedience, condemning her to a childhood in which she's compelled to follow every order, no matter how casually given. By the time she is a teenager, Ella has perfected the art of turning any imprecision in a command back on its giver. With the help of her fairy-godmother-cum-family-cook, Ella keeps her curse a secret; along the way she is sent off to finishing school with the cruel daughters of her simpering stepmother-to-be, launches a fruitless quest to beg Lucinda for release, and falls in love with Prince Charmont (and he with her). She derails their courtship, realizing what a danger she would be to him, but can't pass up a last chance to see him. From that point, the story follows its traditional course, with masked balls, pumpkin coach, and glass slippers. When the prince entreats her to marry him, Ella fights an agonizing internal battle and, driven by love, breaks the curse at last, delightedly screaming refusals over and over before melting into his arms. This refreshing take on one of the world's most popular fairy tales preserves the spirit of the original but adds plenty of humorous mists and a spunky, intelligent female lead. 1997, HarperCollins, $14.95; PLB $14.89. Starred Review. © 1997 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
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 escapes often come too easily--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)
Janis Harmon (The ALAN Review, Fall 1997 (Vol. 25, No. 1))
Levine adds new dimensions to the fairy tale of Cinderella in this humorous story of Ella, the fifteen-year- old daughter of a traveling merchant, cursed from birth by the whimsical fairy Lucinda, who bestows upon her the gift of obedience. This gift becomes a burden to Ella, who must obey the slightest commands from everyone. She is saddled with much unwilling obedience as she attends a finishing school with her future stepsisters, encounters friendly gnomes, and tests her wits against despicable ogres. Her budding romance with Prince Charmont also unfolds as she seeks to find Lucinda to reverse the curse. Although Ella becomes a scullery maid for her hateful stepfamily, she still wins the heart of the prince. Now she must wrestle with the dilemma of how her curse would adversely affect the prince if she married him. As Ella comes to terms with her predicament, she undergoes her rite of passage in order to "live happily ever after." In a delightful and enchanting way, Levine has created a new lived-through experience with a well- known fairy tale that is engaging and entertaining. 1997, HarperCollins Publishers, 232 pp., $14.95. Ages 11 up.
Elizabeth Bush (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May 1997 (Vol. 50, No. 9))
In this novel-length Cinderella, the complete tale of everyone's favorite rags-to-riches maiden comes vividly to life. Levine adopts neither the effusive detail of McKinley's Beauty (BCCB 12/78) nor the haunting somberness of Napoli's Zel (7/96), but renders Ella as a sensible adolescent who refuses to roll with life's every punch and can even appreciate the more comic aspects of her dilemma. The gift of obedience bestowed upon Ella by a well-meaning fairy has been a perpetual burden. An offhand remark by a stranger can send her into purposeless activity for hours and, needless to say, the malicious commands of her selfish stepsisters wreak even more havoc. But her fairy godmother, the family cook, assures her that she will someday break the spell, given the right incentive, and even though the threat of losing her own life proves insufficient to lift the curse, readers can anticipate that true love for her Prince Charmont is. Levine leaves the familiar motifs intact-wicked stepmother, glass slipper, midnight curfew at the ball-but by establishing an easy, playful friendship between Ella and the prince which blossoms gradually into love, she offers readers with feminist sensibilities the assurance that life with Charmont (the prince you want to bring home to mother) will in fact be happy, ever after. R--Recommended. Reviewed from galleys (c) Copyright 1997, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 1997, HarperCollins, [240p], $14.89 and $14.95. Grades 5-8.
Nancy Thackaberry (VOYA, August 1997 (Vol. 20, No. 3))
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. Ella was 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 her never 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 does while 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. She overcomes 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 as early 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's convictions 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 fan interested. 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 never comes 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 and Ella 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 the slippers 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 ever after. VOYA CODES: 2Q 3P M (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 1997, HarperCollins, 234p., $14.95 and $14.89. Ages 11 to 14.
|Language||Call Number||LCCN||Dewey Decimal||ISBN/ISSN|
|English (eng)||PZ7.L578345 El 1997
0060275111 (lib. bdg.)