Ella Enchanted

Ella Enchanted

5.0 1
by Gail Carson Levine
How can a fairy's blessing be such a curse?

At her birth, Ella of Frell was the unfortunate recipient of a foolish fairy's gift -- the "gift" of obedience. Ella must obey any order given to her, whether it's hopping on one foot for a day and a half, or chopping off her own head! But strong-willed Ella does not tamely accept her fate. Against a bold backdrop of


How can a fairy's blessing be such a curse?

At her birth, Ella of Frell was the unfortunate recipient of a foolish fairy's gift -- the "gift" of obedience. Ella must obey any order given to her, whether it's hopping on one foot for a day and a half, or chopping off her own head! But strong-willed Ella does not tamely accept her fate. Against a bold backdrop of princes, ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, and fairy godmothers, Ella goes on a quest to break the curse -- once and for all.

In this incredible novel comes the richly entertaining story of Ella of Frell, who at birth was given the gift of obedience by a fairy. Ella soon realizes that this gift is little better than a curse, for how can she truly be herself if at anytime anyone can order her to hop on one foot, or cut off her hand, or betray her kingdom'and she'll have to obey? Against a bold tapestry of princes, ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, and fairy godmothers, Ella's quest to break the curse once and for all and discover who she really is is as sharply funny as Catherine, Called Birdy and as richly poignant as Beauty, and has all the marks of a classic in the making.

Author Biography: Gail Carson Levine grew up in New York City and has been writing all her life. Her first book for children, Ella Enchanted, was a 1998 Newbery Honor Book. She is also the author of three other Princess Tales books: The Fairy's Mistake, The Princess Test, and Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep. Today Gail, her husband, David, and their Airedale, Jake, live in a two-hundred-year-old farmhouse in Brewster, New York.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This lighthearted fantasy and recent Newbery Honor book re-invents the Cinderella story. "A winning combination of memorable characters and an alluring fantasy realm," said PW in a starred review. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Mary Sue Preissner
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.
Children's Literature - Carolyn Mott Ford
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.
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
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.
The ALAN Review - Janis Harmon
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.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8The "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.Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC
Kirkus Reviews
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 twists and a spunky, intelligent female lead.

ALA Booklist (starred review)
“As finely designed as a tapestry, with a heroine so spirited that she wins readers’ hearts.”
ALA Booklist
"As finely designed as a tapestry, with a heroine so spirited that she wins readers’ hearts."

Product Details

Xiao Tian Xia/Tsai Fong Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Chinese-language Edition
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Ella Enchanted (Rack)

By Gail Carson Levine

Rebound by Sagebrush

Copyright © 2004 Gail Carson Levine
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780613714082

Chapter One

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."

Father was away on a trading expedition as usual, but our cook, Mandy, was there. She and Mother were horrified, but no matter how they explained it to Lucinda, they couldn't make her understand the terrible thing she'd done to me. I could picture the argument: Mandy's freckles standing out sharper than usual, her frizzy gray hair in disarray, and her double chin shaking with anger; Mother still and intense, her brown curls damp from labor, the laughter gone from her eyes.

I couldn't imagine Lucinda. I didn't know what she looked like.

She wouldn't undo the curse.

My first awareness of it came on my fifth birthday. I seem to remember that day perfectly, perhaps because Mandy told the tale so often.

"For your birthday," she'd start, "I baked a beautiful cake. Six layers."

Bertha, our head maid, had sewn a special gown for me. "Blue as midnight with a white sash. You were small for your age even then, andyou looked like a china doll, with a white ribbon in your black hair and your cheeksred from excitement."

In the middle of the table was a vase filled with flowers that Nathan, our manservant, had picked.

We all sat around the table. (Father was away again.) I was thrilled. I had watched Mandy bake the cake and Bertha sew the gown and Nathan pick the flowers.

Mandy cut the cake. When she handed me my piece, she said without thinking, "Eat."

The first bite was delicious. I finished the slice happily. When it was gone, Mandy cut another. That one was harder. When it was gone, no one gave me more, but I knew I had to keep eating. I moved my fork into the cake itself.

"Ella, what are you doing?" Mother said.

"Little piggy." Mandy laughed. "It's her birthday, Lady. Let her have as much as she wants." She put another slice on my plate.

I felt sick, and frightened. Why couldn't I stop eating?

Swallowing was a struggle. Each bite weighed on my tongue and felt like a sticky mass of glue as I fought to get it down. I started crying while I ate.

Mother realized first. "Stop eating, Ella," she commanded.

I stopped.

Anyone could control me with an order. It had to be a direct command, such as "Put on a shawl," or "You must go to bed now." A wish or a request had no effect. I was free to ignore "I wish you would put on a shawl," or "Why don't you go to bed now?" But against an order I was powerless.

If someone told me to hop on one foot for a day and a half, I'd have to do it. And hopping on one foot wasn't the worst order I could be given. If you commanded me to cut off my own head, I'd have to do it.

I was in danger at every moment.

As I grew older, I learned to delay my obedience, but each moment cost me dear-in breathlessness, nausea, dizziness, and other complaints. I could never hold out for long. Even a few minutes were a desperate struggle.

I had a fairy godmother, and Mother asked her to take the curse away. But my fairy godmother said Lucinda was the only one who could remove it. However, she also said it might be broken someday without Lucinda's help.

But I didn't know how. I didn't even know who my fairy godmother was.

Instead of making me docile, Lucinda's curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally.

Mother rarely insisted I do anything. Father knew nothing of the curse and saw me too infrequently to issue many commands. But Mandy was bossy, giving orders almost as often as she drew breath. Kind orders or for-your-own-good orders. "Bundle up, Ella." Or "Hold this bowl while I beat the eggs, sweet."

I disliked these commands, harmless as they were. I'd hold the bowl, but move my feet so she would have to follow me around the kitchen. She'd call me minx and try to hem me in with more specific instructions, which I would find new ways to evade. Often, it was a long business to get anything done between us, with Mother laughing and egging each of us on by turn.

We'd end happily-with me finally choosing to do what Mandy wanted, or with Mandy changing her order to a request.

When Mandy would absentmindedly give me an order I knew she didn't mean, I'd say, "Do I have to?" And she'd reconsider.

When I was eight, I had a friend, Pamela, the daughter of one of the servants. One day she and I were in the kitchen, watching Mandy make marchpane. When Mandy sent me to the pantry for more almonds, I returned with only two. She ordered me back with more exact instructions, which I followed exactly, while still managing to frustrate her true wishes.

Later, when Pamela and I retreated to the garden to devour the candy, she asked why I hadn't done what Mandy wanted straight off.

"I hate when she's bossy," I answered.

Pamela said smugly, "I always obey my elders."

"That's because you don't have to."

"I do have to, or Father will slap me."

"It's not the same as for me. I'm under a spell." I enjoyed the importance of the words. Spells were rare. Lucinda was the only fairy rash enough to cast them on people.

"Like Sleeping Beauty?"

"Except I won't have to sleep for a hundred years."

"What's your spell?"

I told her.

"If anybody gives you an order, you have to obey? Including me?"

I nodded.

"Can I try it?"

"No." I hadn't anticipated this. I changed the subject. "I'll race you to the gate."

"All right, but I command you to lose the race."

"Then I don't want to race."

"I command you to race, and I command you to lose."

We raced. I lost.

We picked berries. I had to give Pamela the sweetest, ripest ones. We played princesses and ogres. I had to be the ogre.

An hour after my admission, I punched her. She screamed, and blood poured from her nose.

Our friendship ended that day. Mother found Pamela's mother a new situation far from our town of Frell.

After punishing me for using my fist, Mother issued one of her infrequent commands: never to tell anyone about my curse. But I wouldn't have anyway. I had learned caution.

When I was almost fifteen, Mother and I caught cold. Mandy dosed us with her curing soup, made with carrots, leeks, celery, and hair from a unicorn's tail. It was delicious, but we both hated to see those long yellow-white hairs floating around the vegetables.

Since Father was away from Frell, we drank the soup sitting up in Mother's bed. If he had been home, I wouldn't have been in her room at all. He didn't like me to be anywhere near him, getting underfoot, as he said.

I sipped my soup with the hairs in it because Mandy had said to, even though I grimaced at the soup and at Mandy's retreating back.

"I'll wait for mine to cool," Mother said. Then, after Mandy left, she took the hairs out while she ate and put them back in the empty bowl when she was done.

The next day I was well and Mother was much worse, too sick to drink or eat anything. She said there was a knife in her throat and a battering ram at her head. To make her feel better, I put cool cloths on her forehead and told her stories. They were only old, familiar tales about the fairies that I changed here and there, but sometimes I made Mother laugh. Except the laugh would turn into a cough.

Before Mandy sent me off for the night, Mother kissed me. "Good night. I love you, precious."

They were her last words to me. As I left the room, I heard her last words to Mandy. "I'm not very sick. Don't send for Sir Peter."

Sir Peter was Father.

The next morning, she was awake, but dreaming. With wide-open eyes, she chattered to invisible courtiers and plucked nervously at her silver necklace. To Mandy and me, there in the room with her, she said nothing.

Nathan, the manservant, got the physician, who hurried me away from Mother's side.

Our hallway was empty. I followed it to the spiral staircase and walked down, remembering the times Mother and I had slid down the banister.

We didn't do it when people were around. "We have to be dignified," she would whisper then, stepping down the stairs in an especially stately way. And I would follow, mimicking her and fighting my natural clumsiness, pleased to be part of her game.

But when we were alone, we preferred to slide and yell all the way down. And run back up for another ride, and a third, and a fourth.

When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I pulled our heavy front door open and slipped out into bright sunshine.

It was a long walk to the old castle, but I wanted to make a wish, and I wanted to make it in the place where it would have the best chance of being granted.

The castle had been abandoned when King Jerrold was a boy, although it was reopened on special occasions, for private balls, weddings, and the like. Even so, Bertha said it was haunted, and Nathan said it was infested with mice. Its gardens were overgrown, but Bertha swore the candle trees had power.

I went straight to the candle grove. The candles were small trees that had been pruned and tied to wires to make them grow in the shape of candelabra.

For wishes you need trading material. I closed my eyes and thought.

"If Mother gets well quick, I'll be good, not just obedient. I'll try harder not to be clumsy and I won't tease Mandy so much."

I didn't bargain for Mother's life, because I didn't believe she was in danger of dying.


Excerpted from Ella Enchanted (Rack) by Gail Carson Levine Copyright © 2004 by Gail Carson Levine. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Gail Carson Levine's first book for children, Ella Enchanted, was a Newbery Honor Book. Levine's other books include Ever, a New York Times bestseller; Fairest, a Best Book of the Year for Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal, and a New York Times bestseller; Dave at Night, an ALA Notable Book and Best Book for Young Adults; The Wish; The Two Princesses of Bamarre; A Tale of Two Castles; and the six Princess Tales books. She is also the author of the nonfiction books Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly and Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink, as well as the picture books Betsy Who Cried Wolf and Betsy Red Hoodie. Gail Carson Levine and her husband, David, live in a two-centuries-old farmhouse in the Hudson Valley of New York State.

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