by Shannon and Dean Hale
illustrated by Nathan Hale
Bloomsbury Children's Books
review copy compliments of the publisher
Book #1 -- 48 Hour Book Challenge 2008
Rapunzel lives in a walled villa with lush gardens and the woman she thought was her mother. There is a friendly guard who teaches her rope tricks (this will become important later) and disturbing dreams she is told to forget.
On her twelfth birthday, she climbs to the top of the wall, sees what's on the other side, meets her real mother, and gets locked in this story's particular "tower." There's growth magic and plant magic involved, which explains why Rapunzel winds up with twenty (thirty?) foot braids.
She escapes her "tower" using her braids (no letting the hair down for the hero...yet), and after making short work of an air-headed Adventuring Hero who cannot recognize the "maiden in distress" standing right in front of him (probably because she's competently riding the wild boar she just lassoed and tamed using her braids), Rapunzel hooks up with a clever lad named Jack who's running from his past with a goose under his arm. The two manage to do good and right wrongs wherever they go (lots more effective use of braids as lassos and whips and ropes) as they make their way back to the villa and Rapunzel's ("Punzie's") real mother.
There is enough action, adventure, head-thumping and hog-tying to keep the story moving briskly along -- this is no sissy fairytale. Keep your eye open for guest appearances by other fairytale characters, and be ready for the humor tucked into both the illustrations and the text. In true fairytale form, there is enough "happily ever after" to go around in the end, even though Rapunzel ends the story with a pixie cut.
The publisher recommends ages 10 and up, but I think fairytale lovers as young as 8 or 9 would enjoy this story. It would also make a good on-the-lap read aloud for a parent-child duo.