Ella by Alex T. Smith

I was looking for a picture book with a character who wore glasses and I found Ella, the story of an adorably feisty ladybird. It’s 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! It’s also a fabulous picture book to read for Valentine’s Day and even inspired us to make a Valentines Day ladybird headband.

Alex T Smith - Ella - Story SnugThe 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 and added a face ( a semicircle of black card) with wobbly eyes. We gave our ladybird black heart spots, large pink heart wings and used small pink hearts stuck to pipe cleaners for the antennae.


Age Range: 3 +

Author / Illustrator: Alex T Smith

36 thoughts on “Ella by Alex T. Smith

    • Just when you think that there are no other ways to tell a familiar story you find another really original version! Thank you for visiting Story Snug 🙂

  1. This looks like a really cute book! We have a Ladybug Princess in our family who happens to be fascinated with bugs! I ‘ll have to check this book out. thanks for sharing!

  2. What a lovely idea for Valentines Day! I love the combination of reading a book and doing a craft to match it. We will be sure to check this one out!

  3. I had to comment because it’s so unusual to find a girl who likes bugs. We’re currently doing a study at our Science4Us online curriculum for science, and she’s loving it….and so am I because it’s interactive without the actual live bugs. Kidding….she still gets the interaction in a group that we have that meets at the park with a few other homeschooling families and the park ranger. Science and reading are her favorite subjects. I’ll be looking into this book for her. Thanks! 🙂

  4. Great book review, sounds interesting. My kids love bugs too! They love heading out into the garden to search for butterflies and lady beetles. Visiting from let kids be kids linky. x

  5. That sounds like a lovely book and nice to have a different take on a traditional story. I love the ladybird headband – am now tempted to make one of those with my little ones 🙂

  6. We are learning how to read and write at the moment. My problem is that I can’t lure my son to read some more after school. Maybe doing some craft that is connected to the book will help! #letkidsbekids

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