Enchanted Stories

I’m guilty of having a very, very long list of books that I’d like to read. Most of the great middle-grade books that I write about are books I did not read as a kid. I found them first as an adult. I missed so many great books as a kid that I’m forever trying to catch up now. Ella Enchanted has been on my list for years, but for varying reasons, I’ve just never gotten to it. But this week I knew I had to read it.

The reason? In the process of choosing books to present in What’s New In Children’s Literature, I discovered that Gail Carson Levine is releasing a new book, a prequel to Ella Enchanted.

Ella Enchanted is about Ella, a young teen who has lived her life cursed to be obedient. Ella must do what she is ordered, but being spirited, she finds ways to outwit the curse without breaking it. Her curse was a gift from a meddling fairy named Lucinda. Lucinda likes to give these gifts at proposals, weddings, births and funerals.

Ella Enchanted is actually a retelling of Cinderella, though how I missed this escapes me. (If ever there was a moment to slap my forehead and say “duh!”, it’s now.) Ella’s enchantment has been a secret all of her life, but because of her father’s greed, she must face life with evil stepsisters and an awful stepmother.

Ella is a fabulous character. She has strength, resilience and courage that allow her to befriend Prince Char. Her adventures teach her how much she is capable of, and the question comes to her: is she strong enough to break her own curse?

Ogre Enchanted is a prequel, taking place one generation before Ella’s story. In this story, we meet Evie, a teenaged healer who says “no” to her best friend Wormy’s marriage proposal. Unfortunately, Lucinda is present and decides to turn Evie into an ogress unless she can find love and accept a proposal within 62 days.

This is a monumental task, ogres eat people. Ogres stink. Ogres are not accepted in human company. Sounds a lot like a Beauty and the Beast retelling to me! Evie realizes that while she only wants to heal others, she can’t help people without learning how to be an ogre first.

Her adventures take her to the marshy Fens to live among the ogres. While there she meets a young man that she is sure loves her. Master Peter is perfect! But he disappears on a day that she chooses to stop the other ogres from killing a giantess. While looking for Peter, Evie finds friends at a manor house and eventually within the capital city where she saves the king and his subjects from a killer plague.

I don’t want to give too much away, because I want you to read the book! What I can tell you is that Evie’s true friends stand by her despite her outer appearance and we learn a lot from this generation. (If you hated Ella’s father in Ella Enchanted, you’ll know why when you read this!)

I am not quite finished with the series though. Goodreads lists another book in the set:

I’m going to read it (or listen as I crochet, like I did with Ella Enchanted) and I’ll let you know. I’m betting it’s a Snow White retelling.

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Fairytale Basics: Snow White

Not to be confusing, but there are two stories that use the name Snow White.  There is the familiar one with the dwarfs and evil queen, and then there is the one where another girl named Snow White and her sister Rose Red star. We’re going to talk about the first one, Snow White (and the seven dwarfs.)

I am reading Snow White with my 3rd grade classes right now. It’s really not what they expected.  We are reading a traditional version by the Brothers Grimm, I have two copies in my library, and we chose the one with illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman for class.

The kids thought they knew the story, but it was very different from the Disney version.  Most of them had never heard that her mother, while sewing by a window, pricked her finger with a needle and dropped three drops of blood into the snow on the ebony windowsill.  She asked for a child as white as snow, red as blood and dark as ebony.

They were also surprised that the evil stepmother targets Snow White at such a young age, 7 or 8 years old! They had never heard the part where the queen asked for the girl’s lungs and liver to be brought to her as proof she was dead.  And they were very grossed out by the queen then cooking and eating the organs.

The story has an interesting part, when Snow White finds the home of the seven dwarfs. She eats a bit from each of their plates and tries each of their beds. When the dwarfs return home, there is a very Goldilocks-moment when they ask who has been eating from their plates and sleeping in their beds.

The kids were quite surprised to learn the evil queen attempts to take Snow White’s life three times, once by lacing her corset too tightly, once by placing a poisoned comb in her hair and ultimately with the poisoned apple.

I think the weirdest parts of the story come at the end.  First after many years of lying in her glass coffin, a prince comes along and asks to take the coffin with him.  What exactly is he going to do with a dead girl? I don’t think she’s a little girl though, I think she grew up over the years in her coffin. Then he doesn’t wake her with a kiss, it is the jostling of the coffin as the soldiers carry it that dislodges the piece of apple that had choked her. She agrees to marry this random stranger-prince and when her evil stepmother arrives at the wedding, they heat iron slippers in a fire and make her wear them until she dies.

Wow.

I really don’t have a lot of fractured versions of this tale.  I do have:

I probably won’t read these to the kids in 3rd grade.  Instead, I’ll wait until we’ve read the traditional Rapunzel and read the Maynard Moose tale that mashes the two together.

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There are quite a few retellings that I’d like to get, some are silly, some are not.  The multi-cultural ones really seem like something I need to buy.

There are quite a lot of young adult retellings and I’ve read a few adult ones.  Here are my favorites:

Red As Blood or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer by Tanith Lee is fabulous if you like dark fairytales.  The Snow White in this collection is a vampire.  Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother is a werewolf and Cinderella is a witch.  I LOVE THIS BOOK! Mirror Mirror by Gregory Maguire is a historical retelling of the classic tale featuring the Borgia family of medieval Italy.  I didn’t like it as much as Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister but it was still a good read.

My search for retellings led me to a treasure today!! I’m excited to see that Liesl Shurtliff is releasing another book in her fairytale retelling series.

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I loved the first three in the series Rump, Jack Red. I cannot wait to read this one!!!!

And just for some fun, I found a video from one of my favorite cartoons of the late 80s, early 90s.  Garfield and Friends did a barnyard version they called Snow Wade and the 77 Dwarfs. You can watch the youtube video here.

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Silly for the sake of silly.

While I love reading a great nonfiction or picture book with a moral lesson in it, sometimes I just want something silly, and I have the perfect stories!


Willy Clafin is an amazing storyteller…well actually he just accompanies Maynard Moose as he tells the ‘Old Mother Moose Tales’.


By far my favorite, The Uglified Ducky is the story of a little moose who wanders into a ducky’s nest…can you guess what happens next? It’s the funniest retelling of The Ugly Duckling that I’ve ever heard. I love that the little Moose does not need to transform before finding out that he is a big, beautiful beastie. From this story we learn:

Everyone is a beautiful something or other.


Two Words: fractured fairytale. Punzel has long unruly hair and when the witch can’t tame it, she imprisons her. Punzel escapes and seeks refuge with seven dwarfs. As the old story goes, she falls into an enchanted sleep but is thankfully rescued by a handsome moose.


The big, bully goat likes nothing more than head butting everyone and eventually starts to disturb a nice family of trolls. Father troll has two heads and argues with himself too much, mother troll has three heads and can’t reach a conclusion because each head is more polite than the last, and baby troll only has one head but we love her anyway. Defeating the bully takes some brains and baby troll is just the girl for the job.


This story doesn’t follow any traditional stories but we get to go with Little Moose and the sheep to the cabin in the sky where Mother Moose lives.

These books usually come with a CD. You will definitely want it! I always tell the kids that I don’t speak the old Moose language so it’s better with the CD. Maynard uses many words not familiar to us and it’s much more fun to listen to him tell it. They do include a nice translation guide but I bet you can figure out most of the words for yourself.


There are stories on the bookless CD collection that I’ve never heard. I think we will be listening to them on our next road trip!