Age Range: 3 to 6
I was looking for a picture book with a character who wore glasses and I found Ella, the story of an adorably feisty ladybird. Ella is perfect to read for Valentine’s Day and is a great twist on the Cinderella story, all of the characters are insects. My daughter is currently fascinated by all kinds of insects (she’s quite happy to pick them up!) so she has lots of fun identifying the various bugs!
The Story: Ella’s two waspy stepsisters, Belladonna and Ivy, treat her like a slave. When Pierre (an uninspired artist) invites the sisters to his Valentine’s Day Grand Bug Ball in Paris, Ella goes with them. While she is out exploring she bumps into Pierre who is intrigued by the beautiful ladybird. Once her stepsisters have gone to the ball Ella receives an invitation, a dress and a beautiful pair of glasses. At the ball Ella dances with Pierre but she forgets her glasses in her haste to leave before her sisters. Next day Pierre invites all the guests to try on the glasses and they fit Ella perfectly. Pierre regains his inspiration, paints a fantastic picture of Ella and they live happily ever after.
I love the idea of retelling a familiar story with a cast of insects. My daughter likes to identify all the bugs (our favourites are the worm and the snail, we love their twirly moustaches!). Pierre is a spider and I think that the idea of having a spider as a main character is brilliant, it’s great to show spiders in a positive light (especially for those children (and adults!) who may have a spider phobia!). The wasp sisters have suitably ‘waspish’ expressions and Ella’s ‘fairy godmother’, Ms Buzzbottom, is a bumblebee. The Grand Bug Ball takes place on a chandelier, my daughter is concerned that the insects don’t have enough room to dance but I think it’s a perfect setting (with no sign of any cobwebs!).
My daughter was immediately drawn to the flowery, glittery heart and the sparkly ladybird on the cover. Pinks, yellows and reds dominate the beautiful illustrations, there are two exceptions where the pages are darker to reflect Pierre’s sombre mood. The spreads are a mix of full page and smaller pictures and my daughter likes spotting Ms Buzzbottom who is on most of the pages. The action takes place close to The Eiffel Tower which is shown in several of the pictures and the Parisian setting is also reflected by the mini Eiffel Tower pictures on the invitations. The text is easy to read (with opportunities for speaking with a French accent!) and I like the use of a larger font to emphasise some of the words.
I love the twists that Alex T Smith has given to this familiar story which gives us opportunities to talk about Paris and do some bug spotting. Ella is such a strong character and she really deserves her happy ending. I wonder how Belladonna and Ivy are coping without her to dust their wings and wash their pillowcases!
Quote from Jessica (age 5): “I don’t like the wasp sisters. It’s not very kind if they never say thank you.”
We read Ella for Valentine’s Day and made our own ladybird Valentine headband. We used red card for the headband, added a face with wobbly eyes, black heart spots, large pink heart wings and used small pink hearts and pipe cleaners for the antennae.
Author / Illustrator: Alex T Smith