In Just Ella
, Margaret Peterson Haddix puts a spin on the traditional tale of the glass slippers. In her version, Ella (sans "Cinder") finds her own way to the ball (there was no fairy godmother, despite the rumors) and wins the heart of the prince. But now she is finding that life at the palace as Prince Charming's betrothed is not as great as she thought it was going to be. In fact, it's downright boring for a self-reliant and active girl to do needlework all day or listen to instructions on court etiquette from the strict and cold Madame Bisset. Worst of all, Ella is beginning to suspect that Charming's beautiful blue eyes and golden hair are attached to a head with nothing in it. Her young tutor Jed, however, talks with her about serious things that really matter. Ella finally gets up the courage to announce to Charming that she doesn't want to go through with the wedding, but when she finds herself locked in the dungeon she realizes it's not that easy to walk away from a politically arranged marriage. In the end, as in all good fairy tales, our heroine and hero do manage to live happily ever after--but with a twist.
Fairy tale retellings are an entrancing form of young adult fiction, as they add psychological insight and turn events around for a surprising contemporary angle. Teens who enjoy this delightful revamping of an age-old story may also enjoy Donna Jo Napoli's Spinners and Zel or the Newbery Honor book Ella Enchanted, by Gail Levine. (Ages 12 and older) --Patty Campbell
From Publishers Weekly
Haddix (Running Out of Time) puts a feminist spin on the Cinderella story, beginning her tongue-in-cheek novel where the traditional story ends. Ella Brown plans to live happily ever after when Prince Charming whisks her from her evil step-family. But when she arrives at the castle, she discovers that the prince is a dull dud, needlepoint is now her most strenuous activity and her ladies in waiting are abuzz with a concocted tale involving Ella, a fairy godmother and a pumpkin (in fact her own resourcefulness got Ella to the ball). When she refuses to marry "Charm," as she calls him, she is thrown in the dungeon to be held there until the wedding day. Making matters worse, Jed, her one kindred spirit, unaware of her imprisonment, leaves to start a refugee camp for victims of the castle's war with a neighboring kingdom. But luckily Ella is not a girl who needs magic or a man to save her. Haddix weaves in elements of fairy tale, with colorful characters such as Lord Reston, Ella's portly, pompous religious teacher; Quog, the ogre-ish jailer; and, of course, the cruel-to-the-core Step Evils. But Ella's modern sensibility seems jarring against a chivalric backdrop (e.g., "Don't that beat all?" Ella says, imitating a servant). Still, her straightforward, often gleefully glib narrative breathes fresh life into the tale. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)
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