Rapunzel

CALDECOTT MEDAL WINNER – 1998

Rapunzel

by Paul O. Zelinsky

Dutton Children’s Books, 1997

32 pp.

Age: 4+

Interests: fairy tales, princesses, witches, magic, romance

Also by this author/illustrator: Rumplestiltskin, The Wheels on the Bus

The familiar fairy tale is retold and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky, with an appreciation for the history of the story and regional variations. Some of the more bloody Grimm flourishes have been pulled back a bit – for example instead of having the prince’s eyes poked out by thorns it simply says that his eyes were hurt in the fall from the tower. Another interesting touch is when the sorceress knows Rapunzel has betrayed her trust when the girl complains that her dress is growing a little snug around the middle. (Which is an echo from the beginning of the book when Rapunzel’s mother knows she is pregnant from the fit of her clothes.)

The illustrations are large, detailed and gorgeously reminiscent of Renaissance paintings. The landscapes are airy and surreal, the portraits and figure groupings are solid, colourful and formally posed, yet the characters are still full of personality and life. The architecture, clothing, furniture are all beautifully designed and rendered. Even the scissors that the sorceress uses to cut Rapunzel’s locks are ornately engraved. The tower itself isn’t simply grey stone but colourful and striking, with inlaid marble and much ornamentation – straight out of medieval Pisa or Florence.

Sumptuous illustrations liven a much-told classic. The classic itself is a little heavy – parents lose newborn baby, Prince falls from tower and is blinded, Rapunzel and babies lost in the wilderness – but that’s the nature of the original tale. There’s certainly nothing too disturbing in these illustrations, although the sorceress is particularly creepy/crazy looking.

(This title at amazon.com)

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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