Monday, January 22, 2007

Bella at Midnight

Stanley, Diane. 2006. BELLA AT MIDNIGHT. Ill. by Bagram Ibatoulline. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0060775742 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-8]

Familiar fairy tale elements combine for a fresh and compelling plot in this middle grade novel. The almost three hundred page saga plays out in three books: The Thimble, The Ring, and The Slippers of Glass. In each, we learn more about the main characters. First we meet Bella, who enters a class-conscious world under tragic circumstances. Her mother dies in childbirth and her father, a hard-hearted knight, abandons her with a peasant wet nurse and her family. Blissfully ignorant of her noble birth, Bella blooms under the care of a loving family. Meanwhile, we meet Prince Julian, who shares a key experience with Bella. Often overlooked by his royal family, he was cared for by the same wet nurse for a time and maintains an ongoing relationship with Bella’s adopted family.

Add to the pot a long standing war, political intrigue, a benevolent aunt, a social climbing step family, and just the right touch of magic and you have Diane Stanley’s modern celebration of virtue and tenacity. Although her characters suffer along the way, readers will feel confident that a happy ending is in the works. They’ll have to keep turning the pages, however, to see how Stanley deftly ties things up.

Diane Stanley’s varied work makes a fun author study. Collect examples of her books that include biography, picture books and novels for comparing and contrasting. For an interesting extension, let kids browse her website (, particularly the section titled “About the author.”

Other novels by Diane Stanley:
A TIME APART. ISBN 0380810301

By Suzy Parchman

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