It seems fitting that I would start with Ella Enchanted. This was the book that started the reading fire in my life. It's complete with everything you'd ever want in a book: adventure, romance, humor, and a headstrong main character. I was in fifth grade when I read it for the first time. I think it was a Christmas present from my Mom (I love it when she gives me books for Christmas). I distinctly remember sitting in that classroom that reeked of ferret stench, during quiet reading time, and laughing out loud, and then looking around to see if anyone had heard me. It was kind of embarrassing, but not as bad as that time during quiet reading time when I overheard some girls talking about how ugly my shoes were. It was a rough time.
Anyway, back to Ella. I know I said I don't want to summarize too much, but I think it's obvious just from the title that this is a Cinderella story. That being said, I've read it several times since, and it always strikes me just how lovable Ella is and how despicable her wicked stepfamily is. So you're just rooting for Ella to overcome it all in the end. And let's not forget Char. I hate it when people suggest that I just haven't met my "Prince Charming" yet, because then I just get this image of an Edward-like man who's every bit as dull as Edward Cullen and whose only redeeming quality is his clean-cut good looks. Yuck. But I'll talk about Twilight another time. The point I'm trying to make is that if Prince Charming was more like Char from Ella Enchanted, then he'd actually be a guy I'd like to meet. He sees in Ella what the readers see, her determination, her wittiness, and even her silliness, and he loves her for it. Oh man, I love it. I recommend this book...mostly just to females though.
I also met Gail Carson Levine, the author, one time. When I was at Snow College, some friends and I just happened to in Provo at the time of the Life, the Universe, and Everything Conference, and I went up to BYU, hoping to see her when she gave her keynote address. But I had to run to the bathroom right before I sat down. There was this short little lady with gray hair washing her hands when I came in, and then two ladies walked past me and whispered, "That's her! That's Gail Carson Levine!" So, I pretended I had to wash my hands too and glanced at her name tag. Sure enough, it was her. I said, "You're Gail Carson Levine?" and she said, "Yes I am," and I said "Oh, I love Ella Enchanted! It's my favorite book!" and she said "Thank you," and left.
Now I realize she probably felt awkward about running into a fan in the bathroom...but I can still say now that I met her!