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Ella Enchanted, published in 1997, was written by Gail Carson Levine and is a Newbery Honor book. For most of my life, this was my all-time favourite novel. (Minor spoilers ahead.)

Based on the popular fairy tale Cinderella, Ella Enchanted offers a distinctly original retelling, including trolls, ogres, fairies, and of course, a curse.

Ella of Frell, the main character of the book, is a young girl who was cursed at birth by a well-meaning fairy, Lucinda. The curse was meant as a gift, but damns Ella to a life of obedience. She must obey any order for the rest of her life, whether it is to brush her hair or to chop off her own head. Ella resents this, and is constantly trying to find loopholes in orders. Most of these demands are made by Mandy, the cook, who is one of the few informed about the curse (After Ella’s mother died, she was forbidden to tell anyone of it.)

Our heroine soon meets Prince Char at her mother’s funeral, and they have an enjoyable conversation until Ella’s father drags her home. Soon it is discovered that her father has a new... friend: Dame Olga. This is where the ugly stepsisters are introduced as well, Hattie and Olive. These two are unpleasant company when Ella is shipped off to finishing school.

I’ll refrain from telling the rest of the story, as it contains major spoilers, but it principally deals with Ella trying to locate Lucinda and reverse the spell, the heroine’s struggles with her stepsisters, and (unsurprisingly) Prince Char.

The entire book is an enjoyable read for kids around the preteen age, including fairy tale elements as well as love and heartbreak, and features an unpredictable, but appealing heroine who refuses to conform to Cinderella’s stereotype.

Ella Enchanted inspired a movie of the same title directed by Tommy O'Haver and starring Anne Hathaway and Hugh Dancy, which didn’t quite break even in theatres (though DVD sales helped) and had big plot differences from the original story. This, personally, made it not nearly as enjoyable as the book.

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