Friday, 27 April 2012

A review of "Ella" by Alex T. Smith

Hi Folks in the Smoke,

   This reinterpretation of Cinderella is the latest offering from illustrator and author Alex T Smith.

   Ella is a woebegone and exhausted ladybird with horrid wasp stepsisters. She needs adventure and escape. Pierre is a Paris-based artistic spider. He needs a new muse and throws a Grand Bug Ball to which the wasps are invited, so Ella heads there are as their bag bearer. Culture-vulture Ella wanders around Paris while her sisters get some much needed beauty sleep. She literally bumps into Pierre. She helps him to his many feet and in return he, cleverly, kisses all four of her hands. On parting, she is bashful, he is besotted.

    The sisters leave for the ball but Ella stays in the hotel. Suddenly she discovers a party invite, snazzy outfit and funky spectacles - from her loving friend Ms Buzzbottom. Off Ella scuttles to the ball which is held on a candle chandelier.
    Naturally, Pierre doesn't put two and two together to identify Ella at the ball but they do boogie the night away. That is until she realises she must rush back to the hotel before her sisters do so. In her hurry she leaves the shiny specs behind - and these replace the glass slipper. The following day, a string of eligible young female bugs try and fail with the specs until Ella arrives and she and Pierre are reunited.

   Smith's story is a nice retelling of the fairy tale - the insects work well as a characters, though interspecies love is a tad weird. There is still that fundamental Cinderella problem of happy-ever-after equaling a dude rescuing her from drudgery but it is fun and sweet. The text is lively and full of nice witticisms. Ella is a lovely protagonist,  kind but determined. I enjoyed Pierre being a frustrated artist for whom love is the greatest inspiration - instead of being a lazy royal. The sibilance and symbolism of Ms Buzzbottom are great. Though I was disappointed when she later becomes a Mrs because of a tragic typo - I hope this is fixed at reprint.

   The illustrations are vibrant - the flowery environments and architectural Paris contrast beautifully. The colours are delectable - a riot of pinks, purples, reds, greens and splashes of yellow. And the ladybird endpapers are a nice touch. 

    Thanks for reading,

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