Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
I am in awe of the fact that a writer, Gail Carson Levine, can take a well known, ancient fairy tale, and give it a life of its own. Who knew that Cinderella, the shallow character from a short story, could have and would have such depth, such an amazing tale to tell!
At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an young fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the "gift" of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. Another girl might have been burdened by this affliction, but not feisty Ella: "Instead of making me docile, Lucinda's curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally."
When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella's life and well-being seem to be in grave peril. But her intelligence and spunky nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery as she tries to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way. Yes, there is a pumpkin coach, a glass slipper, and a happily ever after, but this is the most remarkable, delightful, and profound version of Cinderella you'll ever read.
"Gail Carson Levine's examination of traditional female roles in fairy tales takes some satisfying twists and deviations from the original. Ella is bound by obedience against her will, and takes matters in her own hands with ambition and verve. Her relationship with the prince is balanced and based on humor and mutual respect; in fact, it is she who ultimately rescues him. Ella Enchanted has won many well-deserved awards, including a Newbery Honor."
Paperback, 240 pages, Scholastic Books
ISBN 0590920685 (ISBN13: 9780590920681)
Discussion Guide for Gr 3-5 and Gr 6-8: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/lesson-plan/ella-enchanted-discussion-guide