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Gail Carson Levine: Biography & Books

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby

Kaitlin has a BA in political science and extensive experience working in the business world as Director of Marketing and Business Development at a financial advice firm.

In this lesson you'll learn about the children's and young adult author Gail Carson Levine and her work, primarily her well-received novel, Ella Enchanted. Read the lesson and take the quiz!

An Enchanted Life

Many people love a good fairy tale. The premise is generally the same: a princess is in need of rescuing, and a handsome prince comes along to do said rescuing. Throw in some fairy godmothers, an evil stepmother/queen/scheming lord and some talking animal sidekicks, and the basic idea is met. The classic Cinderella fairy tale is turned on its head when a goofy fairy godmother gives a not-so-helpful gift to the heroine in Ella Enchanted, where the titular character must rescue herself from her problems. This classic children's novel comes from the mind of Gail Carson Levine, an author of children's and young adults books who has become popular since the publication of her first novel.

Biography

Gail Carson Levine was born in New York City in 1947. Her parents were supportive of both Levine and her sister's creativity, and were artistic themselves. Levine grew up in Manhattan, and loved to explore her neighborhood. While she dearly loved to read, acting was her passion, and she considered a career in that field. She did not think about being a writer until after she began another career.

Levine acted throughout high school and majored in philosophy in college. She married David Levine, whom she met in college, and worked for a welfare office, where she helped people who needed work.

It was after this time that Levine began taking writing classes and workshops, and discovered her love of writing. She began with a play that her husband, a jazz pianist, helped her put together, and continued from there. She wrote a great deal that was initially rejected by publishers. In fact, Levine was rejected for nine years before the publication of her first novel!

After the success of her first novel, she retired from her job and transitioned to writing full time. She lives in an old farmhouse with her husband and dog, and still writes daily.

Gail Carson Levine
Photo of the author Gail Carson Levine

Books

Levine's first published novel is probably her best known. Ella Enchanted is a fairy tale about a girl who is given the gift of obedience, although it is clear within the first few chapters that the gift is more trouble than help. Ella must find the fairy who gave her the gift to get it removed, all while having trouble with the people she encounters. The novel was published in 1997 and received the Newbery Honor in 1998. The book was made into a film starring Anne Hathaway in 2004.

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