Saturday, January 22, 2011

Rapunzel, by Paul E. Zelinsky

This Caldecott Award Winner relates the age-old story of the beautiful woman, locked in a tower, visited by a prince, and the adventures that lead to their happily ever after. The author went to great lengths to research the story’s origins, and the writing and illustrating elegantly depicts this work and dedication.

The author dedicates a few pages after his retelling to inform his readers of his research, thought process, and hopes for the book. The child may not care too much about the original “Petrosinella”, or how the story slowly evolved through Italy, France, Germany, and England into the popular tale known today. But the information explains to the parents and teacher exactly what the author hopes the child and reader will gather from his tale. He sought to bring the best mixture of the different variations of the story that reinforced the plot, structure, and characters from the book. His inspiration for the pictures, which are elegant, colorful, almost medieval, and vibrant, draws from the Italian Renaissance, where the story originated. While the strange depth perception might cause some confusion among the more realistic of children, the reader is slowly drawn in to the story, and doesn’t notice the stylistic twist by the end of the book. In fact, the illustrations are very good examples of Renaissance art, with Rapunzel in flowing purples, the witch in black and red, and the prince in browns and golds. The final image is especially powerful and evokes a Renaissance style: the prince and mother lounge easily and pristinely on a bench, with their cherubic children playing at their feet.

There is no doubt, Zelinsky certainly meets his goals of showing the origins of the story, and grabbing the interest of the reader to both the art and the story.

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