I can't tell you how excited I am for today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday. In fact, I've been saving this prize for months because it's particularly special to me. But with this year almost over--the year I finished my first middle grade book and signed with an agent--I thought it only fitting to feature the book that inspired me to write middle grade in the first place. So I humbly (re)introduce you to ELLA ENCHANTED, by Gail Carson Levine.
Before I gush and rave about the book, I should probably tell you my story. How this one book changed everything for me.
I think most of you know I went to film school and worked in Hollywood for a bit. But I left about a year after I graduated because Hollywood just wasn't me. At first I put all those dreams behind me--including writing--and for a little more than two years I didn't write at all. But I missed inventing characters and telling stories and letting my imagination run wild. Eventually I realized I needed to write again. I just had no idea how to do that, or what I wanted to write anymore.
To spare you an endless post, I'll skip all the steps that brought me to the children's section at my local Barnes and Noble, and cut straight to the moment when I finally recognized a title. ELLA ENCHANTED. I'd never read it, and I didn't know much about it, but I knew it was a reinterpretation of Cinderella (my favorite fairy tale) and that it won the Newberry Honor. That was enough for me.
It was the first children's book I bought as an adult (I even remember being a little embarrassed as I bought it, and pretending it was a "gift"--*blush*) and I'll confess...I had fairly low expectations. I'd imagined it would feel "simple" and "young." Like reading a picture book or something. So imagine my surprise when I found a book of beautiful writing, compelling characters, and so much imagination I was astounded. I read the whole book in one sitting and I swear if I were in a movie a light would have come from the sky to visually represent my Ah Ha! moment. I finally finally FINALLY knew what kind of book I wanted to write.
So believe me when I tell you, this is an amazing book--and you don't have to be a kid to appreciate it. The world Levine has created is fabulous, and the way she's tweaked the classic fairy tale to give (cinder)Ella some much needed gumption and personality makes you want to throw rocks at the earlier story--not to mention the writing is knock-me-down gorgeous. It's glaringly obvious why this book won the Newberry Honor, pretty much from the first page.
And do not let the movie--whether you've seen it or not--influence you. It's not the worst movie I've ever seen--and it's certainly not the best. But mostly, it's not ELLA ENCHANTED. Sure, there's certain elements in common, but really...not a whole lot. (ahhh...Hollywood, why do you do it?) Judge the book by the book, and you will not be disappointed.
I'll stop the gushing and praising there, because I have a feeling most of you have at least heard of this book. It's kind of a classic. Plus I want to make sure I leave room to talk quickly about the giveaway.
Over the summer I was lucky enough to meet Gail Carson Levine--twice--and she was every bit as amazing as I'd imagined her. And of course, I picked up a signed copy of ELLA ENCHANTED to give to one of you. They only had paperbacks--le sigh--but did I mention that it's SIGNED? See:
And I'm giving it away to one lucky commenter on today's post. All you have to do is follow my blog and leave a comment on this post before 11:59 pm PST on Tuesday December 21st. I'll announce the random winner on December 22nd. International entries welcome.
Oh, and if anyone else has done a Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and would like me to link your post, drop me an email and let me know. :)
UPDATE: The always fabulous Shannon O'Donnell (I guess we Shannon's have to stick together) has done a fabulous MMGM feature on Tyger Tyger. Make sure you hop over THERE and check it out.
MORE EXCITMENT: Joanne Fritz is talking about BOOM, a fabulous MG book you may have missed when it came out this year. Make sure you STOP BY to check it out.