Wednesday 29 January 2014

Ella's Big Chance by Shirley Hughes (Red Fox Picture Books)

Ella's Big Chance

Written and Illustrated by
Shirley Hughes

Published by Red Fox Picture Books

Shirley Hughes is as close as it's possible to get to being "Children's Book Royalty". Her fabulous books have entertained children for years, and it's been brilliant discovering her books along with Charlotte over the last few years. So even though we're late to the party, we're huge fans and every time we spy a Shirley Hughes book in our local library, we nab it!

Many authors and illustrators have put their own spin on well-loved fairy tales. Sometimes they're fairly low-level treatments of the original that don't really enhance the story or bring anything new along for the ride.

Not the case with "Ella's Big Chance" by Shirley Hughes, which is an utterly masterful retelling of "Cinderella".

You all know the story but Shirley's take on it nips and tucks all the good bits like an expert tailor, as we open the tale with Ella and her father as successful dressmakers, producing some of the most beautiful dresses in the land. When Ella's father remarries a rather mean and crabby woman, and brings her and her two daughters into their home, things change. The new wife has grand ideas for their humble business and sets about turning it into a reputable fashion outlet - meaning lots more work for poor Ella! Her new stepmother and stepsisters treat her poorly, and her father seems to become more withdrawn by the day. Luckily Ella has a friend in Buttons, the store's busy delivery boy who always makes time for Ella and cheers her up.

Consigned to the basement, poor Ella dreams of a world of glamour and music - and when a lord and lady announce a grand ball that's being thrown for their son, Ella hopes she might have a chance to shine.

Alas her stepmother and stepsisters have other ideas. THEY will be the belles of the ball, not poor Ella. Alone and thoroughly miserable, and despite Buttons' attempts to cheer her up, a timely intervention from a magical and mysterious old lady soon has Ella clad in the most beautiful ballgown ever, with a gorgeous limousine and driver ready to whisk her off to the ball!

Here's where we'll pause. You see, you're probably second-guessing how the story ends based on the original, but with a twinkle in her eye and deft strokes, Shirley Hughes has a surprise or two up her sleeves for you. We'll leave you to discover what happens to Ella yourself (trust us, you'll love it as much as Charlotte did).

It's a gorgeous book. Shirley Hughes effortlessly produces the most beautiful illustrations, weaves the original story into a wonderful roaring twenties style twist on the tale, we fell hopelessly in love with this book and we're pretty sure you will too.

Charlotte's best bit: Ella's utterly amazing ballgown. "Wow, it's so so so beautiful!" (I think she liked it)

Daddy's Favourite bit: Probably the best retelling of a traditional tale that we've ever seen. Shirley Hughes - national treasure without a doubt!