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Just Ella Hardcover – September 1, 1999

Book 1 of 3 in the Palace Chronicles Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Lexile Measure: 850L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing; Library Binding edition (September 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439296900
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439296908
  • ASIN: 0689821867
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (239 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,479,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I grew up on a farm outside Washington Court House, Ohio. As a kid, I liked to read a lot, and was also involved in 4-H, various bands and choirs (I played flute and piano), church youth group, the school newspaper, and a quiz-bowl type team. I was pretty disastrous as an athlete, although I did run track one year in high school. After graduating from Miami University (of Ohio), I worked as a newspaper copy editor in Fort Wayne, Indiana; a newspaper reporter in Indianapolis; and a part-time community college instructor and freelance writer in Danville, Illinois, before my first book was published. I've moved around a lot as an adult, having also lived in Luxembourg (during a college semester abroad) and in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. Several years ago, I moved back to Ohio with my husband and kids; we now live in Columbus, Ohio. My husband trains investigative journalists, and my kids are in high school, so there's always a lot going on around our house.

Customer Reviews

This was a very suspenseful book.
Anne H.
I definitely recommend this to anyone who likes Margaret Peterson Haddix or the fairy tale of Cinderella.
Amy Seng
When i was reading this book i didn't want it to end because i loved it so much.
Leah

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Mo VINE VOICE on January 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
More adult and reality-driven than Ella Enchanted, Just Ella is an interesting look at the "happily-ever-after" ending of the original fairy tale. Ella Brown in this story is fleshed out to become a realistic heroine forced to fit into the fragile and uncomfortable glass slippers of a princess. She shows herself to be resourceful and clever; however, for some reason, I never liked her as much as Ella of Frell from Ella Enchanted. Haddix, while very cleverly explaining the matters of the glass slippers and dress (think Ever After for the dress), never develops the characters enough to make them anything more than sketches of potential never fully realized. And I agree with a previous reviewer that the romance seemed a little predictable. (One of two eligible male characters in the book, the other of which is the insipid prince.) An interesting undercurrent in Just Ella was the true meaning of True Love, often mentioned so flippantly in fairy tales.
Just Ella didn't quite satisfy me-- it was neither as charming as Ella Enchanted, nor as psychologically intense as Donna Jo Napoli's retellings. What it did provide was an often ironic, imaginative and creatively rewritten Cinderella that was a definite departure from the usual fairy tale. For another Cinderella retelling, I highly recommend Silver Woven in my Hair, in which magic is inherent, though not implicitly stated. If you liked the court setting, The Crown and Court Duet by Sherwood Smith provides a more realistic (and less mocking) description of court life.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Fairy godmothers, Prince charming, midnight magic, its all a fairy tale. But this book gives this tale a little twist. It tells the story of how Ella realy came to the ball; under her own determination not with magic help. I loved this book and could not put it down! It is a great way to show girl power and how you can take charge of your own destiny. And with Ellas determination and will she finds her true "Prince Charming" on her own.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Tom Knapp VINE VOICE on July 13, 2004
Format: Paperback
So many fairytales end with a simple "happily ever after" ... but is it ever really so simple?
Just Ella, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, turns the Cinderella story on its ear by exploring the young girl's motivations and examining gender roles that apply, honestly, more to modern times than they did in the medieval setting of the book. Still, young readers (and adults, too!) will enjoy this fractured version, which starts with Ella enduring lessons in etiquette, needlepoint and other princessly duties in the castle of her betrothed, Prince Charming. But, while the prince is, of course, charming and quite handsome to boot, Ella begins to wonder if that's a suitable foundation for lifelong romance.
Of note, this book gives us a Cinderella who does not rely on fairy godmothers, talking mice or convertible pumpkins to make her way to and from the prince's ball. Determined to go despite the scorn of the "step-evils" who plague her life, Ella uses the resources at hand and no small amount of ingenuity to get herself where she wants to be (as explained in a brief but entertaining flashback, in which we learn that glass slippers hurt).
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
'Just Ella' is terrific! It starts up about right after Cinderella has gone to the castle to marry the prince, and tells how she struggled with that decision and ended up choosing to do what she did. It is great, and easy to read, clear, thoughtfull, and funny. It has lots of irony in it, and the reason I used it was I needed a book with irony in it for a book report, and so I had the book read in less than 3 hours.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Julie on September 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
Before I write this, I have a few things to say; 1. I did NOT think it was a sequel to Ella Enchanted, a mistake many seem to have made. 2. I am 14, but have been reading adult novels since third grade, so I would appreciate not being stereotyped as a young idealistic believer of fairy tales(and back off the others, too. So they like fiction, big deal, it's their opinion. Don't belittle their understanding or intelligence.) 3. I LOVE books with tough fem chicks most of the time. I dislike books sometimes just because they have wimpy female characters.
That said, I have to say, I didn't like this book very much at all. As many have said, it is amazingly predictable. There was no character developement(besides learning the "truth" about the prince, but by paying attention from the beginning, when she mentions that he wouldn't be interested in her day, you know he's a loser.). Ella started uncomfortable with castle life, and stayed that way. Every chapter ended with her reiterating the question,"Am I really happy?" Sorry Ella, but no, things aren't all roses, and if you had stopped to think before you showed your stepmother up, you wouldn't have to dig out of a "crap hole" as you so nicely put it.
Oh, hey, was it just me, or does the mention of French(or any other real language) in a completely made up world seem strange? If you're coming up with new countries and cultures, come up with a new language. Not so hard, right? Just what I think though, it's not a huge problem.
Speaking of new cultures, the castle life seemed absolutely ridiculous. I find it hard to believe that Anyone is as airheaded as those ladies-in-waiting of hers. Allt eh characters overplayed their parts in my opinion. It seemed very melodramatic, and unrealistic.
Misery.
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