I mentioned recently that my daughter has been into Rapunzel. Nearly every day when she comes home, the first thing she does is take off her regular clothes and put on her Rapunzel costume. I think that an obsession like this is the perfect opportunity to explore how stories can be told many different ways, so I have (over time) checked out just about every Rapunzel picture book I could find at the library. Here they are, with lots of variations in illustration style, details in the retelling, ethnicity, and more.
Rapunzel Retold and illustrated by Alix Berenzy. Henry Holt, 1995.
This book opens with a page that looks like it’s taken out of a medieval book of hours, with close-up drawings of the rapunzel plant and a description: “Rapunzel… will grow and bloom in the most desolate wastelands.” Otherwise, the retelling is pretty standard Grimm. The pictures are beautiful, glowing pastels on black paper, with a strong (if perhaps mixed) medieval/renaissance style. It was a little weird to me that the children appear about five by the time the prince finds them – that’s one long hunt!
Rapunzel Retold by Allison Sage. Illustrated by Sarah Gibb. HarperCollins Childrens, 2010 (UK) and Albert Whitman & Co, 2011 (US).
Oddly enough, only Gibb and Grimm are credited on the cover. The art feels like it could easily be an animated feature film, up-to-date, crisp outlines, a princessy palette and lots of scherenschnitte-style. In this story, Rapunzel is so charming that even the beasts fall in love with her, thus saving both her and the prince. She also gets the tallest tower ever, looking bigger than a modern skyscraper in some spreads.
Really, Rapunzel Needed a Haircut! by Jessica Gunderson. Illustrated by Denis Alonso. Picture Window Books, 2014.
This is a made-for-Common Core retelling from Dame Gothel’s point of view. It’s clear that while Gothel has made some mistakes, she really loves Rapunzel and is trying her best. Mostly, anyway. The caricature-like illustrations set the whole story at some indeterminate time closer to the present – Dame Gothel looks to be wearing clothes about a century old, but Rapunzel looks like she’s wearing t-shirt dresses.
Rapunzel by Rachel Isadora. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2008.
Rapunzel set in Africa, still told with the traditional Grimm words. The cut-out illustrations are beautiful, if stiff. This is one of the better ones for younger readers, as it’s a bit shorter and with more pictures than many.
Rapunzel retold by Barbara Rogasky. Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Holiday House, 1982.
Did I ever mention how much I love Trina Schart Hyman? This is maybe not quite as polished as Little Red Riding Hood or Saint George, but still amazing. The story is straight Grimm, with intricately-detailed German renaissance illustrations. I loved the pictures of the trusting child Rapunzel, the bright birch trees in the dark forest as Rapunzel is taken to the tower, and the passionate kiss even before the prince makes it through the window.
Petrosinella by Diane Stanley Dial Books, 1995.
It turns out that the Brother Grimm weren’t the first to tell the story. Here, Stanley goes back to a much older Neapolitan story from which the Grimms borrowed. Petrosinella is kidnapped at age 7 by an ogress, but steals her magic items and defeats her head-on during her escape with the prince. The illustrations are quite nice as well.
Sugar Cane: a Caribbean Rapunzel by Patricia Storace. Pictures by Raul Colon. Jump at the Sun, Hyperion, 2007.
This much longer version spends a lot of time weaving in more character information and culture. It was way too long for the four-year-old, but she still loved to go back and look at the textured pastel drawings.
Falling for Rapunzel by Leah Wilcox. Illsutrated by Lydia Monks. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2003.
This is a comic version with silly rhymes and misunderstandings as the prince tries to rescue Rapunzel, who doesn’t need or want it. “’Rapunzel, Rapunzel, throw down your hair!’ She thought he said, ‘Your underwear.’ The story ends up with her throwing down the none-to-displeased maid, who rides off with the prince while Rapunzel walks out the back door.
Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky. Dutton Children’s Books, 1997.
This is the Caldecott winner, and one I bought for myself when it first came out. Zelinsky’s retelling mixes in details from different retellings, such as having Rapunzel betrayed by her dress not fitting rather than a slip of the tongue. The illustrations, as you’d expect, are breathtaking, succeeding admirably at recreating the art of the Italian Renaissance.
What’s your favorite Rapunzel?