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Just Ella

by Margaret Peterson Haddix


Book Review

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Publishers Weekly :

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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 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Book Review

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School Library Journal :

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Gr 7-9-This imaginative retelling and continuation of "Cinderella" opens two weeks after the ball. Ella Brown, now known as Princess Cynthiana Eleanora, reveals that neither fairy godmother nor magic helped her escape from her stepmother and the Step-Evils; rather, she relied on her own determination, intelligence, and sharp wits to attend the ball. Now, however, ensconced in the palace to learn royal etiquette and protocol, Ella's dream has become a nightmare. She realizes that Charm, although very handsome, is shallow and boring. When Ella attempts to break their engagement, the so-called Charmings throw her into the dungeon. Her spirit triumphs again, as she digs her way out via the latrine, and escapes to help in refugee camps being set up by Jed, a young man she met at the castle. Just Ella touches on many contemporary themes, including the components of love and happiness, the need for shared values in a relationship, the unimportance of physical appearance, and how young girls are manipulated by society's images of beauty. Reminiscent of Gail Levine's Ella Enchanted (HarperCollins, 1997), and of other retold fairy tales including Donna Jo Napoli's Zel (Dutton, 1996) and Robin McKinley's Beauty (HarperCollins, 1978), Just Ella has a certain charm and appeal. Written for a somewhat older audience than Ella Enchanted in terms of vocabulary and subjects touched upon, this title can be recommended for fans of that book who are now a couple of years older and the perfect age to enjoy this new take on a strong heroine.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME

Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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