Monday, July 19, 2010

On The Broke and the Bookish: "Rapunzel's Revenge"

Today I'm the featured reviewer on The Broke and the Bookish! You can check it out on that blog here, or you can just read it on mine. Since, you know, you're already here.

Authors: Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale (no relation)
Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2008
Where and why: From the library through ILL, for the folktales/fairy tales unit in my children's
lit class.

Who remembers the old story of Rapunzel? If it's what you're expecting in this graphic novel, you're in for a surprise and a treat. In this tale, things are a bit different.

Rapunzel grows up in a beautiful villa, with servants and everything she could possibly wish for—except the love of the woman she believes to be her mother. Eventually she discovers that beyond her (ridiculously tall) garden wall, there is something she could never have imagined possible.

Things happen—Rapunzel is locked up in her tower, her hair grows. Her witch of a stepmother visits yearly, until Rapunzel crosses her one too many times. What's a girl locked in a tree tower to do? Why, put her 20-foot length of hair to use, of course.

This is a completely fractured and often hilarious Rapunzel tale, a hodgepodge of familiar fairy-tale characters and legends, with a few literary allusions thrown in for good measure. There are a lot of elements that are the same (taking from parents for some stolen lettuce, long hair, trapped in a tower), but the whole thing is completely turned on its head. Set in a vaguely Wild West–ish land, it's a great adventure full of thieves, rescues, acts of daring, narrow escapes, and a bit of romance—not to mention the most awesome fairy-tale heroine I've come across in quite some time. Just look at that picture of the cover! You know she's using those braids for some serious lassoing and butt kicking. Finally, a Rapunzel who knows how to DO stuff.

There's a lot of great detail in here, too, not only in the clever nods to various literary characters, but in the setting and the secondary characters. The ethnicities of each is clearly carefully chosen, especially concerning who owns what type of shop and who is in charge at various villages and towns. It looks pretty well researched, though it lacks any kind of source notes, which is unfortunate. I'd love to know why the Hales chose to use certain aspects and not others, why they decided to set it where they did, and a few more things.

But despite that one drawback, here we finally have a graphic novel heroine who not only holds her own, but is the one to fight for what's right and save the day. This is great for reluctant middle-grade readers, or even those in high school. (It will probably appeal more to girls than boys, but boys can certainly enjoy it too. There's a sequel titledCalamity Jack that came out in January, featuring the male protagonist in its predecesor, which might appeal more to boys. Either way, I certainly plan on reading it.)

Nathan Hale's illustrations are absolutely fantastic. He uses a lot of color, perspective, detail, and humor throughout. He's also great at showing what panels are flashback, what dialogue is meant to be an aside, and each character's face clearly shows their emotions (unless they are too far away in the panel for that kind of detail).

If you like retellings or fractured fairy tales, and you could do with a nice dose of graphic novel fiction, definitely go for this one. It's a fast read, the illustrations are beautiful, it's hilarious, and it's pretty much nonstop action—something for just about everyone.


  1. Oh, I want to read this so bad! Graphic novels plus Shannon Hale is such a win! I like that the art sounds good. Sounds like a feminist Rapunzel, if that's so count me in!!

  2. Oh, it's definitely a feminist Rapunzel, no question. She's pretty kickass.


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