Author: Paul O. Zelinsky
Publication Date: 1997
Publisher: Dutton Children’s Books
Number of Pages: 48
Awards: Caldecott Medal
Genre/Subgenre: Fairy tale
The timeless tale of Rapunzel told in a way that is both familiar and fresh.
After many years of infertility, a woman becomes pregnant. During her pregnancy she experiences unbearable cravings for the rapunzel plants she sees growing over the wall in her neighbor’s garden. She begs her husband to steal her some rapunzel, and he does because he is worried she will die without it. The second time he takes the plant the garden’s owner, a witch, tells him he can have the rapunzel that will save his wife’s life, but only if they give her their baby. The witch comes to take the baby when she is born and raises her as her own. When the girl turns twelve, the witch locks her in a tower to protect her from the world. One day a prince walks by the tower and hears her singing and falls in love. He sees that the witch uses Rapunzel’s hair to climb up the tower, so he does the same when the witch is gone. Rapunzel is afraid at first, but then they fall in love and decided to marry. He visits her whenever the witch is gone, until one day the witch notices that Rapunzel is pregnant and throws her out into the wilderness. When the prince tries to find Rapunzel, the witch tricks him and pushes him out of the tower, blinding him. He wanders looking for Rapunzel until one day he hears her singing. They are reunited, and her tears heal his eyes. They go back to his kingdom with their babies and live happily ever after.
This is a beautifully done version of the story of Rapunzel. I loved the oil painting illustrations – they were incredibly sophisticated compared to those of the average picture book. I also thought it was interesting that Zelinsky used multiple traditions of the Rapunzel story to create this work. I do think it is a bit scary and violent for a younger child, who is probably more used to the tamer “Tangled” version of the Rapunzel tale, but it is perfect for an older child who loves fairy tales.
Why I Chose the Book:
I love fairy tales, and I was very interested to read this one, which draws inspiration from several sources, including French and Italian versions and the Grimm Brothers. I was curious to see how this version was different from others I had come across.
Rumplestiltskin by Paul O. Zelinsky
Hansel and Gretel by Paul O. Zelinsky
Sleeping Beauty by Mahlon F. Craft and K.Y. Craft
The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Marianna Mayer and K.Y. Craft
Book Talk Ideas
Read another version of the Rapunzel tale or watch Disney’s Tangled. Compare and contrast to Zelinsky’s Rapunzel.
1. How does this telling of Rapunzel differ from other versions you have seen or read? How is it the same?
2. Author Paul O. Zelinsky drew from multiple traditions, including French, Italian, and the Grimm Brothers’ versions of the Rapunzel tale. How do Zelinsky indicate these influences in the book, particularly in the illustrations?
Zelinsky, P.O. (1997). Rapunzel. New York: Dutton Children’s Books.
Goodreads (2014). Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/815158.Rapunzel?from_search=true