October 25, 2011
The Canon: Ella Enchanted
So I asked you all a few weeks ago about "the canon": what books you would stock your child's library with. My long term goal with that project is to talk about every single one of those books, but first I have to reread each of them and make sure that a: I still think they make the cut, and b: I remember what happens.
Ella Enchanted is first. Why? Mostly because it's the book I reread first, but it's an obvious choice for my child's library. I have a paperback copy. The binding is worn out and the cover is torn. I keep meaning to purchase a nice hardcover, but I never get around to it. Suffice to say this book has been well-loved, and I will (eventually) buy another copy. In the meantime, my copy shows its 50+ reads.
I reread it yesterday. There's something innately comforting about Ella Enchanted, like snuggling into a comfy chair with a mug of hot chocolate on a rainy day. For those of you who haven't read the book (Where have you been living? Under a rock?), Ella Enchanted is a retelling of the fairy tale Cinderella. The hook? Ella, our heroine, has been saddled with a curse of obedience: When given an order, she must follow it. Add in some ogres, giants, a very charming prince, and devious step-siblings, and you have one interesting ride.
I love Ella because she's stubborn and independent, and she doesn't take no for an answer. She is an active heroine who spends an understandable amount of time wallowing in her misfortune before picking herself back up and moving on. Char, her love interest, is also compelling, if not equally so, and he's a genuinely nice guy (a rare creature if ever there was one in the current YA scene). Gail Carson Levine's writing is smooth and playful, and honestly, every single page of this book is a pleasure to read.
Let's not talk about the ill-advised movie adaptation. This is definitely one where I say READ THE BOOK. The movie is not worth your time.
In conclusion, why does Ella Enchanted make my canon? First, because it's a fairy tale. I am a fairy tale devotee -- telling me that your book is based on a fairy tale automatically makes me about twice as likely to pick it up. Second, because it's a fun, well-written adventure about an independent girl with a big heart and a taste for adventure. The world needs more heroines like Ella. Third, because after 50+ readings (and who am I kidding, it's probably more like 100+), this story doesn't lose its charm. I can easily imagine reading it to my child night after night after night. In fact, I might just go reread it now...