Saturday, May 25, 2013

Rapunzel's Revenge

There is much debate about what a princess should be (one of the most recent examples being about Merida from Pixar's Brave), and the Rapunzel of this book definitely goes beyond the trope of a pretty, young woman who needs to be rescued. The plot begins with a princess who is somewhat at odds with her mother growing up:

As she gets older, she grows bolder and after some misadventure learns that things are not quite what she thought they were:

So she is imprisoned in a tall tree (not a tower) where she is left to dwell on her choices while growing her hair out very long. Through her own machinations, she escapes and has to fend for herself in the forests and assorted other rough country. Fortunately for her, she has learned many useful skills to assist her survival.

She ends up meeting up with a wily character named Jack, who carries around a goose for some reason, and the two become outlaws trying to avoid the authorities while hatching a plan to overthrow the queen's iron grip on the overtaxed populace.

The poster sums up well for me what I like most about this book. It takes many commonly known stories and story elements and combines them into a mixture that is simultaneously fun, funny, and full of adventure and energy. Rapunzel here is a capable and adept figure. Jack is a slippery con man with a possible good streak. They have clever interactions and experience interesting situations and places. This book has many elements, from fairy tale and western elements filtered through high adventure, with beautiful images to wonder at and through, and their combination is satisfying and amusing in the best way.

Rapunzel's Revenge is a collaboration between a bunch of folks named Hale. Shannon and Dean are the married couple who wrote the story. Dean is a computer programmer, and Shannon is a YA author with a number of books under her belt, including the Newbery Honor book, Princess Academy. The art was provided by Nathan (no relation to the other two), who has created a few picture books and two of the best graphic novels about US history I have ever read as part of his Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales series. His art here is lively, colorful, and full of energy that makes the narrative hum. This interview with all of the Hales casts more light on the creation of this book.

The reviews I have seen about this graphic novel have been positive. It received starred reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly. Kirkus Reviews praised Rapunzel, "A dash of typical fairy-tale romance, a strong sense of social justice and a spunky heroine make this a standout choice for younger teens." Jennifer O'Donnell called it "a non-traditional take on the age-old fairy tale...that will likely appeal to tween girls looking for a little adventure." John Hogan concluded that "this Rapunzel is so much more interesting to read about than what the Brothers Grimm offered."

I think this book is geared toward upper elementary or middle school readers. There is some adolescent innuendo (mostly about undergarments) but nothing really offensive or over the top.

Rapunzel's Revenge was published by Bloomsbury. There is a sequel to it called Calamity Jack, which I will review coming up next. Stay tuned!

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