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Bella at midnight

by Diane Stanley


School Library Journal :

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Starred Review. Gr 5-8–Left by her father, an arrogant and unpleasant knight, to be raised by her wet nurse after her mothers death, Bella is an imaginative and attractive child whose best friend is the wet nurses previous charge, Prince Julian of Moranmoor. It is not until her father summons her that she is told that the loving people with whom she has spent her childhood are not her true family. She finds his household miserable, her new stepmother unwelcoming, and no place to sleep but the kitchen. Using familiar ingredients including a pair of glass slippers and a magic ring as well as the legend of a Worthy Knight with a halo of heavenly fire, Stanley has brewed a magical elixir that will warm the hearts of readers who like their adventures set in medieval worlds, and who appreciate a bit of a love story as well. Bella is a worthy heroine, capable in the kitchen and courageous enough to journey to a foreign land to warn Prince Julian and attempt to forestall the reopening of the war between Moranmoor and Brutanna. As a bonus, she has inherited her mothers magic touch that comforts all who come in contact with her–a gift that she hardly needs to accomplish her political task but that revives the spirits of a stepsister, still mourning her own father. More than a reworking of the familiar, this is a 21st-century fairy tale, thoroughly enjoyable in its own right.–Kathleen Isaacs, Towson University, MD

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From BookList, February 1, 2006, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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*Starred Review*

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Gr. 5-8. Stanley subtly twists strands of the Cinderella story until it's something quite new and fine. A baby girl, Bella, is born to a mother who dies in childbirth. Bella's furious father sends her away to be raised among peasants, where she is befriended by Julian, a prince, a fourth son who has no place in his family. When they are both teenagers, Julian treats Bella cruelly; then he is sent away to a warring kingdom as a hostage for peace. Soon after, Bella is recalled by her father and finds herself unhappily living with him and his new family, including a stepsister who is a handmaiden at the palace. It is from this young woman that Bella learns about an invasion that will bring about Julian's death, which Bella is determined to prevent. Each character steps forward to tell pieces of the story, a device that enlivens the tale (though in one or two instances, it's hard to distinguish between the voices of Bella and her stepsister). What raises this above other re-created fairy tales is the quality of the writing, dotted with jeweled description and anchored by the strong values--loyalty, truth, honor.Stanley helps readers understand nobility, not in the sense of aristocracy, but as it signifies dignity and decency. The gilt-and-red book jacket makes the book look like a wrapped present.
IleneCooper.

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