Ella lives in a kingdom with giants, elves, ogres, centaurs, and fairies. One unthinking fairy gives Ella the “gift” of obedience when she is born. Any order she is given must be obeyed immediately or she suffers physical distress. She feels cursed and rightly so. She is not allowed to tell anyone about her curse, but someone catches on and uses it to her advantage. Ella is strong-willed and seeks her freedom from constant obedience throughout the book. Towards the end of the book, the story has many similarities to the traditional Cinderella story, but Ella is still bound to obedience.
I read this book aloud to my eight and five year olds, and the older one thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the final two chapters. My five (almost six) year old has a shorter attention span than her big brother had when he was four, so this book might work well with other children her age and even up through middle school. I enjoyed reading this book myself and read ahead because I couldn’t wait to finish. One or two chapters a day isn’t my speed!
Ella Enchanted was the author’s first novel, and she received a Newbery Honor for her story. This work is a fresh take on a timeless classic.
Update: We checked out the movie version of this book from our local library, and it wasn’t nearly as good as the book. The movie portrayed Ella as more of a puppet who was controlled by any and every command others made with no struggle to disobey. It was very unrealistic, which is saying a lot since the book is a fantasy to begin with. There was also an evil character to oppose Ella and the prince, whereas the main antagonist in the book is Ella’s curse to always be obedient.