Having spent over 39 hours in the car this past week, I had plenty of time to think and one of the things I thought about is that I really wish I had brought a book. In the past, I’ve selected books for the yearly family car ride to MI. I used to read to my younger sister. And long ago, in a past relationship, my partner and I read to each other. One of my favorite read-alouds is Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (Harper, $6.99). If you’re thinking to yourself, “oh, that was a movie, right?” I’d like to vehemently declare, “No!” I understand that movies and books are different mediums, and see no point in comparing the two, but this is one of those situations where you wonder why they even bothered to title the movie the same as the book. The characters, plot, and — well everything — were so totally different in the movie that they might as well have started from scratch. But I digress.
Ella Enchanted, the book, is a delightful read aloud. Levine has rewritten other fairy tales since Ella Enchanted was published, but none of them is nearly as good as this first book. Fairest was forced and A Tale of Two Castles just really didn’t make sense. Ella Enchanted is innovative and subtle. Much to her fairy godmother’s chagrin, Ella was blessed (actually cursed) at birth with the gift of obedience. And yet Ella is spunky, funny, and rebellious. Listeners of all ages will enjoy Ella’s adventures and her pragmatic commentary (while reading it to my sister, three boys I used to babysit for heard the final few chapters and asked if I would read it to them). Ella is also a linguist; one of the challenges of this book is deciding how to pronounce the wide variety of languages that Ella speaks, from Elvish, Ogreese, Gnomic, and Ayorthian, the dialect of the neighboring kingdom. Over the years I’ve read this book out loud at least three times and nearly twice that many to myself. I never fail to get lost in the story and I’m always on the lookout for someone new who is willing to listen . . .