Gail Carson Levine
Ella loves being at home and spending time with her mother and Mandy their cook. Ella is the most obedient girl you will ever meet. If you tell her to do something, she will do it no matter what. Most people would think this is a great gift. Don’t be fooled, however, because in Ella’s case this gift is a curse. Ella is so obedient that she can not say “no” to anything. Whatever someone tells her to do, she has to do it. Most of the time this wasn’t terribly bothersome until her mother suddenly dies and her father decides to send her away to finishing school. At finishing school one girl, Hattie, discovers Ella’s secret and manipulates Ella to do things for her. Ella hates her curse, but has not found the power to overcome it. Ella desperately desires to find the fairy who gave her this awful curse in hope that she will take back her gift. After Ella return’s from finishing school, her father remarries Hattie’s mother. Ella’s one delight and friend is Prince Char, who knows nothing of her curse. He only knows that she is not like the other girls. The two correspond through letters while Prince Char is gone in another country. During his leave, Ella spends her time serving her new step-mother and step-sisters that use her secret against her. Ella has become a maid and a servant. Her sisters and step-mother command her to do things she wishes she could refuse. During this time the Prince declares his love and desire to marry her. Ella is ecstatic and joyful, until she realizes that her curse could ruin and destroy her beloved Prince. She lies about being married and hopes that she can find happiness. Will Ella ever be able to stand up for herself and say no? Will she ever be able to experience the love that she desires? Will Ella overcome her curse of obedience and make her own decisions?
I think that most girls enjoy reading a good fairy tale. This story is an excellent choice for that. I think that many girls like to daydream about the man that they are going to marry and that is usually a fairy tale in their minds. This story has everything in it that you would want for a fairy tale, a beautiful girl, handsome prince, wicked stepsisters, evil stepmother, etc. I loved this story because it ended up being very much like Cinderella with a bit of a twist.
This story is a unique fairy tale in the sense that you see how being obedient is actually a curse. I found this interesting and a bit twisted from what we know of obedience. In most cases, obedience is a great thing. In Ella’s case, however, obedience was a curse. I think that this story is good for the reader because it makes you look at obedience with a different perspective. It forces the reader to take a different view from what they originally believed so that they can understand the story.
I think that many students can related to this book in the way that many kids have been forced to do something that they don’t want to. On the other hand, we usually have a choice to be obedient or to be disobedient. I think it is good for students to read this piece and understand what a great thing it is to be able to make your own decisions in life. I’m not saying that we should be disobedient and do whatever we please, but we should be grateful that God gave us the freedom to make our own decisions and not be controlled by someone else.
If I were to use this in the classroom, I would have students think of things that they enjoy, or that are good. I would have them discuss with the class whether or not they thought that too if there was too much of that thing would it actually be bad? I would have them also discuss other ways Ella might have overcome her “curse” and why. Why could Ella not overcome her curse until the very end? What made her suddenly free of its powers and given the ability to control her own decisions?