Rapunzel has grown up living with just her mother. Well, her mother and a surprising number of guards. Because, as you might have guessed, Rapunzel isn’t really Mother Gothel’s daughter. What the fairy tale never told you is that the old witch has a lot more going on than keeping one girl a prisoner. When Rapunzel finally manages to sneak a peek over her garden’s suspiciously high wall, she sees a land ruthlessly exploited by Mother Gothel, who has used magic to make herself a tyrant.

When Mother Gothel locks her up in a towering tree, Rapunzel, refreshingly, rescues herself. And she’s not going to stop there: wielding her two long braids as whips and lariats, she sets out to find her real mother and save the world.

Rapunzel soon discovers that the world she plans to save – a rollicking Wild West setting full of canyons, mines, saloons, and bandits – is a tough place for a sheltered sixteen-year-old to navigate alone. Enter Jack, a young thief with a beanstalk in his past and a goose under his arm. He seems to know his way around, but he’s also a pretty slippery character – can Rapunzel trust him? And can she really take down Mother Gothel? One way to find out – and if that way involves funny, larger-than-life adventures that blend fairy tales with American tall tales (hint: it does), then so be it.

The full-color art is clear and expressive, the former being especially important given all the over-the-top action sequences. It’s also fun to look at, from the desert landscapes to the characters’ classic outfits. The story skillfully combines a series of episodic adventures a la Pecos Bill or Davy Crockett with one overarching storyline. Rapunzel and Jack make a good team: he does the scheming, and she takes care of anything that needs to be lassoed or whipped. (This turns out to be a lot of things; I guess if all you have is a hammer . . .) Rapunzel may do most of the rescuing, but Jack is by no means a pushover, and they each pack an impressive arsenal of quips and banter.

There’s some violence, but it’s strictly cartoon fare, no blood or scary stuff. No worries about sexual content, either: aside from one quick kiss, there’s nil. The humor and storyline are accessible and lighthearted, making Rapunzel’s Revenge a great read for kids and young teens as well as older readers, who may recognize more of the tropes it plays with.

For the further adventures of Rapunzel and Jack, see the sequel, Calamity Jack.

Rapunzel’s Revenge
By Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale
ISBN: 9781599900704
Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books, 2008

  • Nic

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Wake County Public Libraries


    The child of two artists, Nic grew up loving art, reading, and those oh-so-special books that combine the two. Nic got her MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her thesis was on the best shelving scheme for graphic novels in public libraries; the proposal won an Elfreda Chatman Research Award. She spends her free time reading, drawing, blogging, and writing fiction. She is a Youth Services Librarian at the Wake County Public Libraries in Raleigh, NC.

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