by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale
Cover Artist: Nathan Hale
Review by Gayle Surrette
Bloomsbury USA Children's Books Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781599902883
Date: 01 August 2008 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Fairy tales have always been popular. I remember reading them as fast as I could find them when I was a child. As I grew older I found the volumes that were a bit darker than those first childhood picture books. Recently, as an adult, I've seen the upsurge in retelling fairly tales with a modern sensibility, or in a modern setting. Shannon and Dean Hale have updated Rapunzel's story, giving it a very Western flavor and a sidekick, Jack (Yes, that one.), on her quest to right the wrong of the witch who raised her and then imprisoned her in a tower.
Here we have a Rapunzel who is inquisitive, courageous, loyal, and believing in the innate goodness of people. Raised in Mother Gothel's compound, Rapunzel was unaware of the poverty and desperation of those outside the compound walls. Once seen, Rapunzel cannot forget what she has seen anymore than she can forget the fragmented dreams of a mother who is not Mother Gothel. One things leads to another, as anyone who has read the original story could guess, and Mother Gothel confines Rapunzel to a tower in the middle of a distant forest.
The story diverges greatly from the tale as we would remember it from Disney and the Brothers Grimm -- neither as light as the one nor as dark as the other. Here Rapunzel manages to escape her imprisonment and, after an adventure or two, teams up with Jack. Jack, of course, has his own story but here he serves as Rapunzel's sidekick and her guide in a land that she's only glimpsed once from the compound walls.
Illustrated by Nathan Hale, no relation to the authors, the background scenery is very Western America. Even better, Hale manages to juxtapose the text and the illustrations so that what would seem from the text to be straight exposition becomes exaggeration or misdirection or simply hilariously funny. It's the small details and the combination of illustration and text that makes this retelling of the classic fairy tale into something new, with a Rapunzel that doesn't wait to be rescued, and who knows her own mind.
This Rapunzel is someone to be admired for her spunk and quick wits. She's not a damsel in distress but a girl to be reckoned with.