Book: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Favorite quote: “I had wanted to tell her about the afternoon I spent flying down the stair rails at home, never noticing the gradual shedding of my breeches.”–Prince Charmont
You got it, folks, this kid hit four bingo squares with one book. [cue whatever is included in over the top celebrations (e.g. fireworks, confetti, dancing elves)]
Throughout the school year, I read various chapter and picture books aloud to my students. Because this is America and democracy is the big thing here, I had my students vote for the chapter books they wanted to hear from a collection of favorites I have stashed behind my desk. I was pleasantly surprised they voted for this one. I mean, the synopsis that I read to them didn’t mention explosions, mutants, Minecraft, or anything of the like. There was just a girl, a spell, and the promise of a happily ever after.
Ella Enchanted is an enchanting (original adjective usage, yes) retelling of the Cinderella story. This Cinderella is clever, charming, and determined. She saves herself, she saves the prince, heck, she even saves the kingdom. Ella is a great role model. Good going, Gail.
To mix things up, my class listened to the book on tape. I’m dating myself with that terminology, I know. But hey, “audiobook” is absolutely no fun to say. I was nervous for myself having to listen to the story since I am not an oral learner. My husband (my boo for you colloquial fans) always gets audiobooks for long car trips. He got the Harry Potter series to “read” for the first time (How has he lived so long without Harry? I don’t want to talk about it), but I lasted maybe one or two chapters before getting out my own book to read while he listened. And that was Harry Potter, my passion.
I’m afraid this is true for Ella Enchanted, too. I just couldn’t pay attention. However, since I know the book like I know the back of my hand/the Chipotle menu, I found myself zoning back in at my favorite parts. (e.g. Prince Char and banister sliding, Prince Char and his seriousness, Prince Char and his buttons, Prince Char and his Prince Char-ness…Oy, I’m fangirling.)
My students and I were convinced that the narrator, Eden Riegel, was a talented young kid. However, after a Google search and a quick lesson in four-digit subtraction, we discovered that Riegel was twenty-two at the time of reading. (Hearing myself on voicemail confirms that my voice, too, is that of an eleven year old girl.) Regardless of her age, we were all impressed at how she flew through the pronunciations of some of the crazy fictitious languages in the book. Aaaope! Aiiiee uuu koobee (screech) oob payiipe aau.
I don’t know if it’s because I listened to it with a bunch of nine and ten year olds, but I don’t remember there was so much mushy love stuff. The faces on some of the kids during some of these parts were hilarious. For the most part, the kids liked it. I’m sure that the promise that a movie viewing would follow helped for the few young skeptics.
I will not talk about the horror that was Ella Enchanted the movie. I…I can’t.
I reread the book, paperback style, after watching the movie-that-must-not-be-mentioned to make sure I was left thinking only good things; I felt I needed to make sure I did it justice. I don’t remember when I first read it, but I found my first copy with my name written inside the cover by a young Jessi in ridiculously huge grade school girl handwriting. I wonder what made me pick up this book originally when I would have normally chosen Goosebumps or a wartime novel. Whatever it was, I’m glad I did. I can happily report that this old favorite still had me grinning, swooning, and cheering until the last page.