Friday, August 1, 2008

Rapunzel's Revenge

Written by Shannon and Dean Hale, Illustrated by Nathan Hale
Reviewed by Melissa

In my house, it is very rare that my 8-year-old and 12-year-old daughters will agree on anything, let alone both agreeing with each other and with both of their parents. This miracle happened recently, however, by the time we all finished Shannon and Dean Hale's most excellent graphic novel.

Heard around the house were comments such as: "It exceeds all my expectations," (That's the 12-year-old). "It was AWESOME!" (The 8-year-old). "A good graphic novel. Very cute," (The husband).

As for me, I've long been convinced that Shannon Hale can do no wrong. She can do more right and less right, but she has yet to make a serious misstep in her writing career. I do have to admit that I had misgivings when I heard that she was writing a graphic novel, for what "serious" novelist takes on such a "light" form? Then, I actually began reading graphic novels, and my opinion about the genre changed. What better way to tell the Rapunzel story than to set it in the Wild West, make Rapunzel a kick-butt heroine with some awesome hair roping skills? And who better to tell this story than Shannon Hale (with the help of her talented husband, Dean, and a brilliant artist, Nathan Hale -- no relation -- of course)?

The plot basically follows the Rapunzel fairy tale: girl is taken from her parents by a witch because father steals rapunzel (a lettuce that I've never quite figured out...). Ends up imprisoned in a tower (in this case, a tree in a forest) until... this is where the Hales delightfully depart from the tried and true. Rapunzel frees herself (with a nod to the fair prince), and decides to go back and rescue her mother from Gothel's (she's the witch) mines and teach Gothel a bit of a lesson in the meantime. She hooks up with Jack (of beanstalk fame) and they head across the land, rescuing and helping people, and generally getting angrier at Gothel with every frame. They get back, confront Gothel, rescue Rapunzel's mom and pretty much have the standard fairy tale ending.

The beginning and ending are pretty typical fairy tale stuff. It's the middle I liked best. The Hales are funny writers -- there were many asides and humorous bits that worked extremely well. A lot of that credit, of course, goes to Nathan Hale and his art work. It's a bit cartoony, different from the other graphic novels I've read -- but it fits the story quite well. I like Rapunzel's and Jack's facial expressions, especially when they're put into some tight situations. In this case, I didn't mind not having the descriptions left to my imagination; it would have been too cumbersome to describe the ease and finesse with which Rapunzel works her hair-lassos; drawing it works so much better.

The book is listed for ages 10 and up, but given from the experience we had around our house, capable younger readers will enjoy it, too. Not to mention their parents. That is, if they can get it out of the hands of their children.

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