Ella Enchanted

By Gail Carson Levine

Best for age 8 and older. 232 pages.

This fun and fanciful retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale begins on the day that Ella is born and she is cursed with the gift of obedience.

Maybe you’re wondering if it’s really a curse. After all, if you’re perfectly obedient, you wouldn’t ever get into trouble, right?

The problem of this curse becomes clear in the first pages of the book: At her fifth birthday party, Ella is told to “eat” by the family cook. So she does. The first piece of birthday cake is terrific, but as she eats and eats and eats, it’s only her mother who realizes the problem.

“Stop eating, Ella,” she commands, and the ever-obedient Ella can finally stop.

As the story unfolds, the similarities to Cinderella become more clear. Ella’s mother dies, and when her father remarries, she winds up with a wicked stepmother and awful stepsisters. But the teenage Ella is a fiercely independent heroine who has learned in­cred­ibly clever and funny ways to get around her “obedience” curse.

By the time Prince Charming asks Ella to marry him, it’s clear that “obey” won’t be part of their wedding vows!

— Tracy Grant