Thursday, February 18, 2016

LS 5603 20 Review: Rapunzel by Paul Zelinsky

by Paul Zelinsky

Title: Rapunzel 
Reteller: Paul Zelinsky 
Genre: Folktale 
Publishing Info:New York: Puffin Books
Publication Date: October 1997
ISBN: 9780525456070

Zelinsky, Paul. Rapunzel. New York: Puffin Books, 1997. ISBN 9780525456070

Plot Summary: 
A man and woman have longed for children, but have struggled to conceive. That is, until the woman finds herself suddenly pregnant with a child. She spends her time looking out the window at a sorceress' garden and dreaming of her child. She then spies one of the plants in the garden, rapunzel, and has a sudden dire craving for it. Her husband attempts to sneak into the garden, but is caught by the sorceress, who requests his child in exchange for the plant. The husband, desperate to save his wife, agrees. Rapunzel is born and taken by the sorceress, who raises her well until she is twelve, when she takes her far away and locks her away in a high tower. For years, the sorceress is the only one to visit Rapunzel, using the girls' hair to climb the tower. Eventually, a prince comes across the tower and hears Rapunzel's beautiful singing. Using the sorceress' method, he climbs Rapunzel's hair to meet her. The two are married, and Rapunzel becomes pregnant. The sorceress, angry at her betrayal, banishes Rapunzel and informs the prince. Despite the most difficult odds, love prevails.

Critical Analysis: The characters, plot, and setting of the story are common for what is usually seen in folktales or traditional literature. The characters are inherently good or evil. The sorceress is the definition of evil, requesting that "[the husband] must give [her] the child [his] wife will bear" (p.9). Then, she locks Rapunzel up in a high tower to keep her from everyone else. Rapunzel, on the other hand, is the definition of good. She was said to be a "child of rare beauty, with pale skin and an abundance of flowing red-gold hair" (p. 13). Her innocence is obvious in the words and illustrations throughout the novel. The characters are simple, and do not change or grow much throughout the story.

The setting is developed quickly and without much deal; it is clear that it is set far away, and that there is a kingdom nearby as the prince falls in love with Rapunzel. The sorceress has a large, elaborate garden and the pictures make it clear that wilderness surrounds them. The plot is simple, and time passes quickly. The conflict drives the story, as Rapunzel has to deal with being constantly alone, and then must deal with the sorceress' cruelty when she finds her pregnant. Despite the many conflicts, the ending is happy and satisfying.

The theme of the novel maintains the ideals of traditional literature as well, with good triumphing evil in the end. I do wonder if this is a theme or lesson that young children will achieve simply from reading the story, however. While the ending is happy and they will realize this, I am not sure that all children will understand that this means that they have "defeated" the sorceress in some way. Still, I do believe that it is a worldly theme that older children with understand. Despite many identifying plot points, I do not feel like there was any obvious style in the writing. It does seem like the story could easily be a retelling, but does not have any dialect or language that stands out culturally.

The illustrations in this book follow the story beautifully. They add to the setting, plot, and characters by expressing the time period and heritage that the story takes place in. It can be determined that it is a long time ago based on the way that they are dressed and styled. Along with adding to the overall emphasis of the story, I do believe that the illustrations also help to move the plot along. They are detailed and used to emphasize what is happening; especially in the most tense moments.

Review Excerpts: 

From School Library Journal: "Why Rapunzel? I thought the story was compelling and mysterious, and I was interested in learning to paint hair."

From Publisher's Weekly: "Daringly--and effectively--mimicking the masters of Italian Renaissance painting."


This version of Rapunzel would be wonderful to teach conflict and basic plot development at the middle school or elementary level. They could discuss where the climax and resolution is, and how those things affect the conflict

This version could also be used to discuss the differences between flat and round characters, and the general theme of good vs. evil.

-Rumpelstiltskin by Paul Zelinsky

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