Ella Enchanted

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Overview

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

At her birth, Ella of Frell was given 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 or chopping off her own head!

But strong-willed Ella does not tamely accept her fate. She goes on a quest, encountering ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, fairy godmothers, and handsome princes, ...

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Overview

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

At her birth, Ella of Frell was given 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 or chopping off her own head!

But strong-willed Ella does not tamely accept her fate. She goes on a quest, encountering ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, fairy godmothers, and handsome princes, determined to break the curse—and live happily ever after.

In this novel based on the story of Cinderella, Ella struggles against the childhood curse that forces her to obey any order given to her.

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Editorial Reviews

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."
ALA Booklist (starred review)
“As finely designed as a tapestry, with a heroine so spirited that she wins readers’ hearts.”
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 5-8-The timeless story of Cinderella is deepened and extended in Gail Carson Levine's Newbery Honor book (HarperCollins, 1997). Given the unfortunate gift of complete obedience, the young heroine recounts her struggles to maintain her own identity. Along the way she meets Prince Charmont and a host of fairy tale characters, including gnomes, giants, ogres and, of course, her wicked stepfamily. Her fairy godmother, Mandy, works as the family cook and is Ella's constant helpmate. Ultimately Ella outwits the cruel and charms the good. She also finds the strength to overcome the lifelong curse of obedience and marries the prince. This retelling of the familiar story is rich in detail and offers older readers a chance to revisit well-known characters. Eden Riegel is a skilled and enthusiastic narrator with enough vocal styles to make each character a unique individual. The occasional addition of mood music adds drama but is not intrusive. The recording has no prompts to indicate the end of each side. The lightweight cardboard container is attractive but too flimsy for circulation. Both public and school libraries will find audiences eager for this unabridged recording.-Barbara S. Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780064407052
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/28/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 39,569
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 670L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.58 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Gail Carson Levine

Gail Carson Levine thinks she can write poetry. Forgive her; the doctors say she’ll be sane again soon. She was born in New York City and shares a birthday with William Carlos Williams. Her first book for children, Ella Enchanted, won a Newbery Honor. Gail’s other books include A Tale of Two Castles; the New York Times bestsellers Ever and Fairest; Dave at Night, an ALA Notable Book and Best Book for Young Adults; The Wish; The Two Princesses of Bamarre; and the six Princess Tales books. She is also the author of the nonfiction book Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly and the picture books Betsy Who Cried Wolf! and Betsy Red Hoodie, both illustrated by Scott Nash. Gail and her husband, David, live in the Hudson Valley of New York State.

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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.



Continues...

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.

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First Chapter

Ella Enchanted
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, and you 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.

Ella Enchanted. Copyright © by Gail Levine. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

About the Book:

The 1998 Newbery Honor Book, Ella Enchanted, is the funny and charming story of a girl who receives a most unfortunate "gift" of complete obedience. At her birth, Ella of Frell was given the gift of obedience by a fairy. Ella soon realizes that this gift is little better than a curse, though, for how can she truly be herself when at any moment she must obey any order given to her, whether it is to hop on one foot, or cut off her hand, or betray her kingdom. But spunky Ella does not tamely accept her fate: "Instead of making me docile, Lucinda's curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally." Battling hungry ogres, wicked stepsisters, and foolish fairies along the way, fifteen-year-old Ella embarks on a quest to break the curse—once and for all.

Questions For Discussion:

  1. When she started writing this novel, Gail Carson Levine wanted to base her story on Cinderella but didn't want Ella to be a "goody two-shoes." So Levine created the obedience "gift," which forces Ella to be good. Identify additional differences and similarities between Ella Enchanted and the classic fairy tale Cinderella.

  2. Ella's father tries to set up a marriage for her with a man who is much older. How are marriages arranged in Frell? Do people marry for love or other reasons? How are marriage customs in Frell like and unlike modern marriage customs in our society?

  3. What kind of relationship does Ella have with her father? Do you feel he is wrong to try and marry her off to a wealthy man or to leave Ella alone with Dame Olga and her daughters?How is Ella's relationship with her father different from the relationship she had with her mother? Do you think Ella takes more after her mother or her father? Explain why.

  4. What is the difference between small and big magic? Give some examples of both. Why is Mandy so reluctant to cast big magic? Why does she rarely tell people that she is a fairy?

  5. What does it mean that Ella is in a line of women who are "Friends of Fairies" (page 25)? Are there instances in the story when Ella demonstrates her "fairy blood" and performs some magic of her own?

  6. While at finishing school Hattie orders that Ella discontinue her friendship with Areida, her only friend. After Hattie's command is issued, Ella proclaims, "In all the times I'd imagined the miseries she could inflict on me, I'd never imagined this. I'd thought of injuries, and I'd imagined terrible embarrassment, but I'd never thought of this kind of hurt" (page 81). How is the hurt she feels at ending her friendship with Areida similar to the conflict she feels at the prospect of marrying Char? How is this curse of obedience potentially dangerous to everyone she loves or befriends?

  7. Why do you think Ella is finally able to break her curse of obedience when she initially refuses to marry Char? What does Ella mean when upon breaking the curse she says, "In that moment I found a power beyond any I'd had before, a will and a determination I would never have needed if not for Lucinda, a fortitude I hadn't been able to find for a lesser cause. And I found my voice" (page 226)?

  8. Do you think Lucinda finally learns the damaging effects of big magic by the end of the novel? Why or why not?

  9. Lucinda's spells don't always work as she intends them. Ella's father does not transform into a loving person after he is cast into eternal love with Dame Olga and Ella finds ways to make mischief despite her obedience spell. What difference is there between choosing to do good and being forced into it?

  10. How does Ella's knack for learning languages help her in social situations? What effect does she have when she speaks or attempts to speak to others in their native tongue?

  11. Why does Ella attend the three balls that the king throws for Prince Charmont and risk getting caught by her stepfamily and by the prince himself?

About The Author:

Gail Carson Levine grew up in New York City and has been writing all her life. She and her husband, David, and their Airedale, Jake, live in a two-hundred-year-old farmhouse in Brewster, New York. Ella Enchanted is her first book for children.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 1026 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 1026 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 9, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Amazing.

    This is one of the best books I've ever read. The reading level may be low, but the story is still fantastic. It's not like the average Cinderella story, where a ball changes everything, it's an even greater story of determination, courage, and love. I've taken experiences from this book and applied them to my life. The characters are very very well developed and you are able to feel like you are in the story. The twists put on this story make the experience intense and unpredictable. Even if you are an adult I highly recommend reading this book. It's a good read for any age.

    29 out of 33 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 1999

    READ THIS REVIEW

    Everyone else who wrote reviews on this book just said 'THIS IS THE BEST BOOK IN THE WORLD!'. I do not agree though. Even though this book is outstanding work and I envy Gail Carson Levine with the passion of a thousand suns for being able to write as beautifuly and wonderfully as this. When you read this book you you are pulled into the story and you are not just reading about Ella and her prince, you are experiancing the story. You're talking with giants and dancing with elves, just as Ella did. Oh yes, one other thing, you are falling in love with a prince......who is in love with you. You won't be able to put this book down, litterally. You will read this book begining to end and you will be depressed to find there are only 3 pages left in the book.....so you read it again. Ella Enchanted is a very lovey book and deserves more attention than it and Gail are receiving. If you find that your life is as exicting as you like it, you don't have to read this. But, if you're looking for adventure, you just found it.

    21 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 25, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    How Enchanting!

    Don't compare this book to the movie! This book is so much better than the Anne Hathaway film (not to put it down). The story has more depth, and much better character development. I believe that adults could enjoy this book, even if you didn't find the movie to your liking. Give it a try.

    15 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2010

    Awesome book!!

    Ella is the main character of the story and when she was born, she was cursed with the "gift" of obedience. Having this gift was very dangerous because others could make her do whatever they please, and Ella would have no control over it. She lived with her mother and the cook, Mandy. Her mother died when she was 15. Ella's dad, Sir. Peter, was a trader and was rarely home. It was now her, Mandy, and her dad. Ella was called "clumsy" because of her fairy feet. Her dad sent her away to boarding school with Dame Olga's daughters Olive and Hattie. Hattie figured out Ella's curse and used it to her advantage and later on in the story she told Olive and her mom. They attended finishing school and Ella ran away to go to a giants wedding to find Lucinda. On her way home, she was greeted by elves. And after that she was captured by ogres which tried to eat her. But then Prince Charmont and some knights saved her by tying up the ogres. Ella then returned to the wedding and found Lucinda. She didn't cure her curse. Ella then returned to Frell. Dame Olga and Sir. Peter get married because Sir. Peter's business failed and he needs to become rich again. Later on, a ball is thrown for the homecoming of Char and Ella goes to it as a masked girl named Lela. Char becomes friends with Lela. Hattie takes off Ella's mask on the third night of the ball and Char sees that she is actually Ella. She runs home to Mandy and they are about to leave when they are greeted by the prince. Char asks Ella to marry him and Hattie says "Don't marry him Ella" and she was forced not to marry him. But Olive said to marry him as a command and Ella refused. She told Char that she couldn't marry him because she was cursed and she would put him in danger. And at that point she realized that she broke the spell and she ended up marrying Char. This whole story was about Ella facing what she had to deal with every day of her life and overcoming her curse. Something I really liked about the book was the different languages that were made up in the book. One dislike about the book that really annoyed me was Olive, because she used Ella to her advantage for money and someone to talk to. I think people should read this book because it was enjoyable and I got hooked on it!

    13 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2010

    My Favourite Book Ever

    Do not compare this book to the movie. There is almost nothing that is the same. The only things that are the same are the characters' names, Ella's obidience, and the title. In fact, the movie even made up several major characters that either didn't exist in the book, or were only present for a few pages. Even the plot is completely different. So don't expect it will be anything like the movie.

    I love the way this book is written. Ella tells her story in funny and amusing ways, and her thoughts and her diologues with Mandy, Char, and Areida make me laugh. I also love how Levine twisted the Cinderella story to make it more interesting, and how it explains things - why she has such tiny feet, how her stepsisters are able to boss her around, etc.

    This book is not just for girls, or just for children. My adult sisters have read it and liked it. Once, my dad read it aloud to us - my mom, my dad, and my younger brothers all enjoyed it. Every one of my friends who have read it, loved it and thought it was so good.

    This is my favourtie book of all time. I have read it so many times, I know it backwards and front, and I can quote whole paragraphs word-for-word from memory.

    12 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2012

    200 pages of EXCELLENCE!

    I absolutly LOVE this book! No matter your age, you will LOVE IT!!!!!

    11 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Magical Fairytale!

    This is one of the best books I have ever read. It is family friendly and it is one of the best - if not the best - fairytale books for girls ever. I have shared this book with many friends and now it is also a favorite of theirs. This has been my favorite book as long a I can remember! I suggest this book to any girl who loves a good Cinderella story. This is by far Gail Carson Levine's best work and it can not even be compared to any of her other books!

    10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 17, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Ella Enchanted

    This is one of the BEST BOOKS I have had the pleasure to read. I bought this at a book fair in elementary school. I can't tell you how many times I have read and reread this book. It never loses its magic, no matter how many times you read it. Ella is extremely witty and funny. The book is hilarious, it will make you cry, the romance is 5-star--what more can you ask for from a book? This book will not leave you wanting--a definite CLASSIC.
    P.S. The movie did not do the book justice. It was cute and everything--but in my opinion they should have kept the concept closer to the book. Happy reading!

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 1999

    'Ella' Rocks!

    Ella Enchanted is SUCH a cool book! I didn't even know it was based on 'Cinderella' until I read about it on this website! The author, Gail Levine, did a wonderful job with this masterpiece! She writes so you believe that ogres and dragons and faries are real. And Ella is such a cool person! She's not always perky and smiling like Cinderella, but she has real feelings, and is a genuinely nice person. And she doesn't just meet the prince once and fall in 'love', but has a friendship that leads into their love. All in all - Get it!

    8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2010

    Excellent

    This was my favorite book when I was in elementary school.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 4, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    just a wonderful book

    Amazing book....I would recommened it to anyone!

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2012

    CLASSIC

    I have loved and reread this book countless times since I was eight, and, judging by the other reviews I've read, so has everybody else. This book is filled with adventure, romance, and hilarity, all told from the point of view of a main character who is spunky, intelligent, and utterly likeable. A brilliantly written and engaging story.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 11, 2011

    Every girl/young woman should read this book. (And older audiences will appreciate it, too!)

    This is my favorite book of all time. It is a classic tale fleshed out to paint the portrait of an independent, admirable protagonist on a quest through a magical world. I have read it countless times, even as an adult, and it still engrosses me.

    This book turns the traditional "damsel in distress" character on its head, giving you a strong, courageous, determined young woman who saves herself and her loved ones at the same time. It is an eloquent illustration of the old adage, "you can do anything if you put your mind to it."

    Gail Carson Levine's Newbery Medal was rightly deserved.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2012

    &6&&%5

    I didn't really like this book as much as the others by Levine. It was kind of boring because they just keep watching eachother and nothing happens for a long time. I really don' t like the characters because they are boring too. I also find it disturbing that the father is going to thank a god he worships by sacrafising his daughter. I was disappointed in the ending because the problem was never completly solved.

    4 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 10, 2012

    A MUST READ FOR ANY GIRL

    I read this book when I was in 4th grade, many many many years ago. But I still remember the tale like it was yesterday. This was the first book that I absolutely, unequivocably fell in love with. I don't know how many times I went to my school library to check out this book but every single time, I cried and I cheered. This book is a wonderful WONDERFUL book for young girls and I would recommend it to any child.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 9, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Fantastic Book!

    They say this book is for ages 8 to 12, but I do not believe them. It's hard to outgrow this book. It's amazingly written. I cried in parts. Other people have tried to write a story about Cinderella. None are as good as this. You can read it again and again. All my friends who have read it love it. I highly recommend this book. If you don't read it, it's your loss.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 31, 2011

    Amazing

    This book was extremely good. It was humorous, smart, fun, and had a touch of romance. This book about over coming some of the things holding you back could be extremely inspirable to some children. If they cant read themselves, it would be a great story to read to you little princess, family bonding and happiness. This book is not only a book, the movie is also out there too, and though very different it still has the same inspirable movement to it. This book is great for people all ages who like a good book, but it is probably put more to 4-10 year old girls, but read the book its fantastic! If you want to read an amazing story about so great accomplishments, this will be a perfect book for you, not only are there accomplishments, but adventure, danger and love, absolutely amazing. This book though, will probably not be as liked by little boys, or boys for that matter, but if you have a little princess in your world, or a little princess inside of you, read this book, you'll absolutely, positively love it!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2007

    the book was so much better

    i just love the book and i re-read the ending almost every night, but the movie was a big disappointment to me. The plot was totally wrong and the setting wasn't right either. So if you really like the book and dont want you image of it to be ruined, then dont see the movie.

    4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 1999

    Ella Enchanted

    Ella Enchanted was a wonderful book. But do not take advice from me, every book I read, I say, 'Oh, how romantic and wonderful! I love this book! It is now my favorite!' And it is the same with this book. I did not even think this was a Cinderella story until I got to the very end. It goes soo much deeper than Cinderella. It is more true than the fairy tale. Ella doesn't just fall in love with the prince, and automatically get stepsisters, and make the prince fall in love with her. Everything happens gradually. I have read this book at least 3 times, and I am looking forward to reading it again. I extremly love the romance that goes on between the prince and Ella. It is so obvious that they are right for each other. If only love was really that way. As for Ella's curse, it made me respect her more. If anyone feels the same way about this book, and loves to talk about books, please contact me @ my e-mail address.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2000

    The Best Book I've Ever Read!!!!!

    Ella Enchanted is the best book I've ever read because,it made me fell like I was Ella, and always had to obey. I also liked how the author gave a lot of detail, but not too much that it got boring.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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