Rapunzel’s Revenge, by Hale, Hale & Hale

This gorgeous and unusual retelling of the Rapunzel story sets Rapunzel in a fantastic version of the old west, where outlaws live in the hills, saloon fights are common, and butterflies can grow to be the size of people. Rapunzel grows up in a grand villa with her mother, a witch whose specialty is growth magic (thus the giant butterflies). When the young girl discovers her real mother is trapped in the witch’s mines in punishment for stealing the lettuce from the witch’s garden, she rebels against her foster mother and is shut up in the top of a tree in an unnaturally huge forest. Many years later (on her 16th birthday), after standing up to the witch again, she frees herself from the tree using her long hair as a lasso. She then lassoes a boar, sends the stuck-up prince who intended to rescue her on a wild goose chase, meets a horse thief named Jack, and eventually makes her way back to the witch’s home. On the way she gets into a bar fight, saves a young girl from a band of outlaws, and rescues a town from a ferocious pack of coyotes.

There are many wonderful, funny moments in this graphic novel. One of the books Rapunzel reads in captivity is Girls Who Get Saved and the Princes Who Save Them. When they become outlaws, Rapunzel’s list of crimes includes “using her hair in a manner other than nature intended.” They have to make their way through a place called “The Devil’s Armpit,” and Rapunzel remarks “Now, with a name like the Devil’s Armpit, you’d think it’d be a right jolly place,” while the two of them are surrounded by bones. Overall it is a charming, clever adventure story and a fun way to revisit this traditional fairy tale.

Why I recommend this graphic novel:
Any young girl who liked princess stories will love this book. It retells a traditional story in an engaging way. Rapunzel is strong and independent. She sticks up for herself and becomes more courageous as she gains skills and confidence. This is more of a light adventure story than, say, Coraline, but it also encourages girls to save themselves and to do what is right. Rapunzel must learn to trust Jack, but she saves him more often than he saves her. I think this is a great graphic novel to demonstrate to girls that fairy tales don’t have to be about “Girls Who Get Saved and the Princes Who Save Them.”

Hale, Shannon and Dean Hale. Rapunzel’s Revenge. Illus. by Nathan Hale. Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books, 2008. Gr. 3+

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