I have loved Ella Enchanted since I first read it, way back before it was made into an amazingly mediocre movie. Cinderella retellings abound but this is a particularly charming one.
Even before her mother passed away Ella was saddled with major fairy tale baggage, a fairy blessing bestowed at birth. A gift I’m sure many parents have secretly longed for, “Ella will always be obedient.” But true obedience is far more dangerous than it is helpful. Ella is subject to every whim of those who surround her, from her disinterested father to her soon-to-be stepsisters to ogres who long to eat her. She has grown up strong-minded and rebellious and very much able to take care of herself. But as she starts falling for the heir to the throne, Prince Char, Ella begins to realize the full gravity of the curse. How can she let him in when she could be his downfall?
A fairy tale where the girl is intelligent, strong and funny and respected for these qualities is to be lauded. Luckily, the book is clever and interesting too. In my book this is a must read for girls who like fairy tales or strong heroines.
Age Recommendation: I’ve had very strong third grade readers who enjoyed this book, but I would generally recommend it for grades 4 and up. It is interesting enough to capture the attention of young teens as well, despite being sometimes considered “children’s.”
Great for: This is the gold standard as far as I’m concerned, exactly what a fairy tale retelling should be. Enjoy!
Sex, Nudity, Dating – A story is told about a genie that loved a goose girl. There’s a giant wedding (not a really big one, but one where giants get married to each other). When her father loses his money, he plans to marry Ella off to a wealthy man. A parrot orders Ella to kiss him. A fairy blesses Ella’s father and his new wife with eternal love. There is dancing and a people holding each other. There’s bannister sliding which leads to a someone being caught in another’s arms. There are repeated proposals and refusals. Two people fall in love, one confesses. There’s a kiss on the cheek, one on the mouth. People have children.
Profanity – None.
Death, Violence and Gore – If you ordered her to cut off her own head, she would have to do it. A girl says she has to obey her elders or her father will slap her. Ella punches a girl giving her a bloody nose. Her mother becomes sick and dies. The funeral is described and Ella must close the coffin lid. A fairy worries that doing big magic will set off a chain of events that could have serious consequences, like killing someone. Ogres eat people. They have pointy teeth and blood under their fingernails. Sometimes they eat them raw, other times they cook them first. There’s much discussion about how they would parcel out their prey and how they would cook their prey. A girl sees the bones of her pony after the ogres have eaten him. A man slaps a girl across the face when she won’t stop screaming. A laundress gives a housemaid a black eye. Chores cause a girl to have bloody hands. Ella’s father thinks robbers should be put to death.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – Father pours wine and offers it to Ella. The prince has ale. Father and a guest drink brandy and pour some for Ella.
Frightening or Intense Things – When Ella does not obey an order, it makes her physically ill. Another girl orders Ella not to eat.