Sunday, October 18, 2009

Rapunzel's Revenge

Biblio Bits Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale, Bloomsbury, 2008 (ISBN 9781599900704)

Reading Level/Interest Age 500 lexile/ages 10-14

Genre Modern fairy tale; Western

Format Graphic novel

Plot Summary
This graphic novel re-tells the fairy tale of Rapunzel (with a little Jack in the Beanstalk thrown in). When Rapunzel discovers that Mother Gothel stole her as an infant she demands to be returned to her real mother. Mother Gothel, who has some amazing growth magic, imprisons Rapunzel in a tall tree in the middle of the forest where she lives for four years. With the goal of rescuing her real mother from Gothel's mines, Rapunzel escapes and is thrust into a world she doesn't know, a world that has the look and values of the wild west. She quickly realizes it's a cruel place that is ruled by hardship and finds a comrade in Jack, who is on the run from the law himself (a problem with stealing that he is rather vague about). Rapunzel masters her long braids as her weapon-of-choice, and the two set off to find and free her real mother and vanquish the powerful Mother Gothel.

Critical Evaluation
This modern fairy tale places Rapunzel at the center of her own destiny. She is a heroine with a vision of a world that might be different, without the cruel reign of Mother Gothel. The authors have penned an engaging narrative and compelling re-telling of this fairy tale classic. Rapunzel and her sidekick Jack make a fun team; their small exchanges, on their way to friendship, are definitely a highlight of the story. Readers will respond to the pace of the action of the story, not to mention Rapunzel's moral code and sense of honor and humor. Nathan Hale has done a masterful job of bringing life to the story by Dean and Shannon Hale; the vibrant colors and setting, emotions, and humorous parts are thoroughly evoked by Hale's illustrations. The page layouts are relatively easy to navigate, even for novice graphic novel readers.

Reader's Annotation
A braid-wielding redhead who takes no guff is on a mission to vanquish cruel Mother Gothel. Think tall-tale meets fairy tale and you might have a notion of what awaits you in this rollicking adventure!

Author Information
Shannon and Dean Hale live near Salt Lake City, Utah, with their two small children (a boy and a girl), "and their pet, a small, plastic pig." Shannon has written the best-selling young adult series that begins with The Goose Girl, two stand-alone books, and two books for adults. Shannon obtained her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Montana. She was awarded a Newbery Honor for The Princess Academy, one of the stand-alone titles. (Information in this author biography was gleaned from the author's official website.)

Challenge issues
Perhaps staunch Grimms' traditionalists might object to a Western version of this story. But I am stretching it here.

Booktalking Ideas
Perfect in a booktalk on fractured fairy tales, this book might also be at home in an Adventure Tales booktalk, or even Modern Hero/ines. I might adopt a twangy accent and read some of the exchanges between Jack and Rapunzel aloud, or perhaps put my hair in two braids and don a cowgirl hat!

Curriculum Ties
It would be great fun to use this book in a language arts unit, maybe focusing on the idea of taking a classic story and bringing it into a new setting or period. The assignment, perhaps in a group, could be to take a fairy tale of their choosing, re-read it, and then begin to brainstorm a modern take on it. This would probably lead to some research on the time and/or place. Where would the setting be? Time period? Cast of characters? How about a Three Little Pigs set in modern day Manhattan? Cinderella in Australia? The possibilities could be really fun.

Why this book?
Well, this title has been checked out from the library by my two sons probably eight times, so I have seen it floating around quite a lot (in between visits to the book-mender for a recurrently weak spine!). Finally, I figured it was high time I read it myself, especially since it's on the Maine Student Book Award Reading list for 2009-2010, and I was not disappointed!

Yes! By visiting the author's website I learned that a sequel, Calamity Jack, is due out in 2010.

ALA Notable Children's Book, 2009; Maine Student Book Award Reading List 2009-2010.

Rockport Public Library owns?

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