Yes, here she is, Cinderella! In a slightly different form, of course. Meet Ella, who has been given the wonderful gift of obedience from the fairy Lucinda. Of course, this obedience is not a welcome gift and poor Ella has quite the time living with the curse that forces her to do whatever anyone commands her to do. Especially when two rather unkind, greedy step-sisters enter her life. What is poor Ella to do?
This is a great book for discussion with students 3rd-6th grade, and the book easily lends itself to many extension activities, including possibilities for teaching characterization, setting, point of view, and theme.
Why does Lucinda believe that her gift is a wonderful piece of magic? Why is it actually a curse for Ella? Is Ella’s curse ever a good thing?
Does Lucinda ever give gifts that are truly good? What is the worst gift that Lucinda bestows upon a person in the novel? Why is this the worst gift? How will it affect the person’s life?
Do you think you could live with the curse of obedience? Have you tried it? How long did it take until you were not thrilled with obeying every command?
The Fairy Book
Ella’s fairy book lets her see things that others cannot. How do you think that this book works? Why can’t Hattie see what Ella sees in the book? Why does Ella see certain things at particular times? Why do the stories change? Is this small magic or big magic? Is it a curse or a gift?
The Evil Stepsister – Hattie (and Olive!)
When we first meet Hattie, it is only for a brief moment. What are the first clues about Hattie’s character and what type of person she is? How does Hattie figure out Ella’s curse? Why does she decide to keep Ella’s obedience a secret? What do we know about Hattie through her relationship with Ella? Compare Hattie and Olive. How are they alike? How are they different?
Most decidedly, languages are an integral part of Ella Enchanted. Ella has a talent for languages and is eager to learn Ayorthaian. What does this tell us about Ella? Why are there so many different languages in the book? How is this important to the setting of Ella Enchanted?
Ella & Prince Char
How does Prince Char feel about Ella? When does Ella begin to realize Prince Char’s feelings for her? What are the clues that help Ella figure out his emotions? Ella doesn’t want to let Prince Char know how she feels. Why is this? What do we learn about Ella’s character through her decisions regarding Prince Char?
Ella & Cinderella
The story Ella Enchanted is loosely based on the classic fairy tale Cinderella. What do you think are the most important similarities? What are the most important differences between the two stories? How are Ella and Cinderella different?
While this story does not include a traditional school (finishing school is certainly not the normal school experience today!), there are many lessons learned throughout the story. By the end of the story, Ella has learned many important things that help make her a courageous, thoughtful, and caring girl. Make a list of the lessons that Ella learned. Hint: think about the lessons she learned from Mandy, Hattie, Prince Char and her parents. What is perhaps the most important lesson of all? What helps her break the curse and how is this an important lesson for Ella?
Ideas for Beyond Ella
- Characterization. Venn diagram (or an alternate graphic organizer) for Ella & Cinderella. Ask students to record each characteristic along with a line from the text that shows the characteristic in play in the story. Also good preparation for a compare/contrast essay using characters as the topic.
- Setting. How is the setting important in Ella Enchanted? This is an excellent opportunity to explore the depth of the setting. This goes beyond just the setting of “Frell” as a place. How is magic a part of the setting? Fairies? Ogres? Gnomes? How does the setting affect the story when Ella moves to the city – and finishing school? What are the details that make Frell (and all of the places in the book) realistic? How does the author make the setting unique and realistic for the reader?
- Writing Project: What is a fairy tale? With the entire class, create a list of fairy tale characteristics. Next, take a fairy tale (not Cinderella) and rewrite the fairy tale in a different setting or a different time period. This is fun to do as a class – and you should expect your students to have some very creative ideas! It is also great preparation for the students to write their own versions of the fairy tale on their own. After the students finish their writing (this will take some time!) regroup as a class and share. Now compare the original fairy tale with the new version. Ask students to record their changes for the new fairy tale. What changed in the new version? Why did you make the changes? What is still the same? Read and share!
Cinderella Picture Books
There are many, many wonderful Cinderella picture books out there, and countless versions of this classic tale. Here are a few of my favorites that work well for pairing with Ella Enchanted. You will find that they lend themselves well to compare/contrast and studies in characterization and setting.
- Fair, Brown & Trembling: An Irish Cinderella Story by Jude Daly
- Domitila: A Cinderella Tale from the Mexican Tradition by Jewell Reinhart Coburn
- The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin
- Little Gold Star: A Spanish American Cinderella Tale by Robert D. San Souci
- The Persian Cinderella by Shirley Climo
- The Turkey Girl: A Zuni Cinderella Story by Penny Pollock
- Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella by Robert D. San Souci
Have you read Ella Enchanted? Have you read this book with your students? Please share!