Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Retold and illustrated by: Paul O. Zelinsky, hand lettering by John Stevens
Published by: Dutton Children’s Books in NY in 1997
ISBN: 0-525-45607-4
Genre(s): Picture Book, Traditional Literature

Reading Level: Grade 4
Activity Level: Grades 2, 4
Award: Caldecott Award Winner in 1998

Summary: This book is a retelling of the story of Rapunzel. While pregnant, Rapunzel’s mother feels she will die if she does not eat of the rapunzel in the sorceress’ garden which she can see from a window in her home. Therefore, her husband goes to pick some for her, but comes into contact with the sorceress while in her garden and, due to his immense love for his wife, he agrees that, in exchange for the rapunzel, (and the life of his wife), he will give her their child once it is born. Upon that time, the sorceress appears to take the child, whom she names Rapunzel. She treats her well, but when she is twelve years old, the sorceress locks Rapunzel in a high tower and she is the only one who climbs her hair to see her. Eventually, a young prince comes buy and falls in love after hearing Rapunzel singing to the birds and, after watching what the sorceress did to get to the top of the tower, he climbs up to see Rapunzel. He proposes and they marry and spend many evenings together. One day the Rapunzel mentions to the sorceress that her dress is fitting too tightly and the sorceress realizes what has happened, cuts Rapunzel’s hair, and banishes her and she gives birth to her twins, alone. When the prince comes to visit that night, he finds the sorceress in the tower and not Rapunzel (he was able to climb up the tower because she let down the hair she had cut) and the sorceress says what has happened and he falls, astonished, to the ground and loses his eyesight. While he is walking through the woods, he hears Rapunzel’s singing again and when her tears of joy at seeing him again meet his eyes, his sight is restored and they walk to the nearest city, which happens to be the place over which he is prince, and live happily ever after.

Response: I really enjoyed reading this book. It was an interesting take on the traditional tale of Rapunzel. This author shaped his version of the tale from the Grimm’s two original versions as well as a few older versions with similar content. (The author’s note about the history of this story gives a plethora of information about the story’s origin as well as some ways it has changed through history.)

One of the main reasons I picked up this book, I must say, was because of the gorgeous illustrations! (This book won the 1998 Caldecott Medal, and for good reason!) The paintings in this book are absolutely fantastic! Included in the illustrations are single- and double-page spreads, column pictures, and one and a half pages spreads. They are done in such remarkable detail that one has to look very closely in some of them to see the hidden animals and to distinguish that these illustrations are not photographs. Mr. Zelinsky’s
illustrations are reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance period and are wonderful representations of this artistic period.

Teaching Connections: This book could be read to a second grade class after the teacher reads a more traditional version of the tale and the students could work on Venn Diagrams to compare and contrast those stories (and illustrations).

A fourth grade teacher could use this book in her classroom in several ways. She could read it and implement the vocabulary, discussion questions, and extension activities outlined in this lesson plan on teacher vision, which is great.

She could also read a more traditional version of this tale to her class before reading this one and have the students pass the books around the classroom while writing a response about the similarities and differences in the folk/fairy tales so that they could practice their writing skills.

She could also use this book in a lesson about folk/fairy tales, which is in the NC fourth grade curriculum. After learning about these tales and hearing several, the students could be placed into groups where they have to create their own tale, write a script, and act it out in front of the class. (This would be in a month-long unit about folk and fairy tales.)

What Students Learn: From this book and these activities, students learn about the history of folk and fairy tales, gain an increased vocabulary, learn to compare and contrast and otherwise analyze text, and increase their writing and communication skills.

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