Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrations by Nathan (no relation) Hale is the first graphic novel I have ever read! I am also embarrassed to admit that it is the first young adult book by the Newbery Honor winning author of Princess Academy, Shannon Hale, that I have ever read. Being a bit of a Jane Austenite, I did read her book for adults, Austenland, which was very entertaining. I have to tell you right up front, I do not like comics. I never read the Sunday comics or comic books as a kid and I don't read them as an adult. I have tried once or twice to read a manga, the Japanese style comic book that reads from left to right, and couldn't do it. Manga has been groing in popularity in the US for years. Most bookstores now devote several shelves to them in the adult section and the kid's department where I work even has a bay filled with kid's manga and comic books. Most popular kid's movies that come out - High School Musical, Clone Wars, Indiana Jones, Cars - have comic books based on them. So, I would have never picked up Rapunzel's Revenge had it not been a retelling of a fairy tale, by Shannon Hale and situated in the kid's department.
And I am glad I did! While it took about an hour to read, the images and plot keep replaying in my head. As you can tell by the pictures, Rapunzel's Revenge is set in the wild west, a magical wild west. Rapunzel is a child living in a luxurious villa surrounded by high walls. Mother Gothel, the witch in the story, gives her everything she wants but will not let her see what is on the other side of the walls. On her twelfth birthday, Rapunzel decides to get to the top of the wall and see what she has been missing. What she finds is a devastated wasteland all around. She sees a line of weary looking people filing past a well, guarded by her friend Mason, and jumps down to investigate. As she is about to be sent back over the wall she is given a drink of water by a woman who seems familiar. Rapunzel discovers that the dreams she has been having are really memories and this woman is her mother. Her rebellion and revelation lead her to be imprisoned in a tall tree in the heart of the Carrion Forest. As Rapunzel's hair grows over the course of the four years she is imprisoned (the forest abounds with growth magic) she learns to use it as both a whip and a lasso. Finally, she is able to escape the tree. And, as she says, this is where the fairy tale ends...
From there she meets Jack, a fellow with a goose who is on the run from some giants. The two of them reluctantly team up, first just to get food, but eventually to rescue Rapunzel's mother and bring down Mother Gothel. There is an amazingly diverse cast of characters living in Gothel's Reach. There are dwarves with a magic pick axe named Inga, a crazy hermit named Witchy Jasper who acquires a pet jackelope at one point in the story, as well as a sea serpent in a lake. There is also a wonderful diversity in this graphic novel, faces coming in every color. With his little bowler hat, shirt and vest, the character of Jack reminded me a bit of the Native American character from westerns - the wise man who wore gringo clothes. All he needed were some tiny, round gold framed glasses. As Rapunzel and Jack make their way to Gothel's villa, with Rapunzel saving their lives more than once, they come to trust each other. Jack even uses his las gold coins to buy Rapunzel her cool cowgirl duds, allowing her to leave behind the green stripped long johns and petticoats she had been wearing. There is even a fancy ball near the end of the story where we get to see Rapunzel and Jack dressed up like wealthy landowners. Despite her considerable power, the two manage to free Rapunzel's mother and bring down Mother Gothel, who ends up trapped inside a tree that grows from her magical totem.
In Rapunzel's Revenge the Hales blend tall tales and fairy tales to create a whole new world for their characters to play in. As Shannon Hale says in an interview on her website about her decision to write a graphic novel, she loves to read them between regular novels as a way to "cleanse her palette." Rapunzel's Revenge is definitely a great book to pick up for any reason!
Don't miss the great Rapunzel Paper doll with seven different outfits! And, don't miss the sequel, Calamity Jack, which looks like it has a little Steampunk action happening in the Old West.
For readers interested in tall tales, the amazing picture book author and illustrator Steven Kellogg has written and illustrated books on Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan, Mike Fink, Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett, as well as a great version of Jack and the Beanstalk. Mary Pope Osborne of Magic Tree House fame, also retells these stories well in her collection, American Tall Tales.