Hale, Shannon and Dean Hale. Rapunzel's Revenge. Illus. Nathan Hale. New York: Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children's Books, 2008.
Shannon and Dean Hale’s graphic novel Rapunzel’s Revenge plays with the traditional fairy tales of Rapunzel and Jack and the Beanstalk, which are revamped in a whimsical, western setting. Rapunzel has been unknowingly adopted by and grown up with an evil witch, Gothel; however, upon realizing that she was taken from her real mom, who now suffers in Gothel’s mines, Rapunzel seeks revenge on her pseudo-mother. As soon as Rapunzel defies Gothel, Gothel locks her up in a magical tree-prison, yet, one day, Rapunzel’s hair is long enough to provide her with a rope to escape. Upon escaping, Rapunzel meets Jack, who facilitates her success in a variety of obstacles and ultimately helps her save her mother and defeat Gothel.
Rapunzel provides readers with a strong female role model. She chooses good over evil and works diligently to save her mother. She is disciplined and has high moral standards; for example, though she is an outlaw in Gothel’s land, she refuses to steal. Rapunzel is clearly the heroine of the tale, whereas, her friend Jack is more like a sidekick. He supports her in her decisions but allows her to call the shots. Both characters are extremely human and easy to identify with – Rapunzel is trying to figure out who she is a new world, where Jack is trying to escape his past. Through their friendship, they are able to overcome obstacles that may have been too trying for them individually. Readers also notice the budding amorous relationship between the two and are interested in watching it grow.
Rapunzel’s Revenge begins in a stereotypical fairy tale setting – Rapunzel wonders a beautiful castle and garden, yet, less stereotypically, is obviously bored with her surroundings. Once Rapunzel’s curiosity gets the best of her, and she realizes that Gothel has drained the land outside the castle walls of life, she becomes defiant. She escapes her tree-house dungeon and ends up in the Wild West. The bandit-infested desert provides a perfect setting for the variety of obstacles that Rapunzel must overcome.
Lastly, Nathan Hale’s illustrations appear in prime comic book form. They are colorful and vivid. Speech bubbles and sound effects abound, and the characters and setting reflect the fantastical nature of the novel.
An ALA 2009 Notable Children's Book
A YALSA 2009 Great Graphic Novel for Teens
"With its can-do heroine, witty dialogue and romantic ending, this graphic novel has something for nearly everybody."
Publisher's Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
"The dialogue is witty, the story is an enticing departure from the original, and the illustrations are magically fun and expressive. Knowing that there are more graphic novels to come from this writing team brings readers their own happily-ever-after."
School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
"Readers familiar with graphic novels will feel at home...Newbies may not realize how particularly well-matched the Hales' gutsy tale is to its format, but this introduction--with its high action quotient, immediate sensory thrills, and wisecracking heroes--should win many converts. With such a successful debut, one hopes to see more graphic novels from this trio."
Horn Book, STARRED REVIEW
"A dash of typical fairy-tale romance, a strong sense of social justice and a spunky heroine make this a standout choice for younger teens."
Students could rewrite fairy tales of their own choosing or rewrite their favorite fairy tale in a western setting.
Students could read other books by the authors.
Students could read other graphic novels and compare and contrast them, or compare and contrast the graphic novel to the traditional tale.
Thompson, Holly. Orchards. Illus. Grady McFerrin. New York: Ember, 2011.
Orchards follows Kana Goldberg, half-Jewish, half-Japanese, to her mother’s family in Japan for the summer. Kana is struggling with the recent suicide of a schoolmate, who was bullied by one of her close friends. Kana is plagued by the memories and struggles with the part she may have played in the death. Through her family’s support and her work in the mikan orchards, she is able to cope with not only one suicide, but with a second tragedy as well. In the end, Kana is able to exhibit her condolences through an installation of her design.
Thompson seamlessly incorporates elements of the novel with poetry, so that one can appreciate the poetic elements while never feeling as though they are taking away from the novel. Thompson manipulates her language so that its structure evokes the mood. Often, Kana remembers Ruth’s suicide, and the words taper off, just as Kana’s emotions trail off into the unknown. Additionally, Kana’s struggle is often represented through terse lines; for example, after becoming upset about the treatment of crows in the fields, Kana relates, “even then/I don’t say/a word,” illustrating the frustration and lack of words she has to adequately express what she is feeling. Thompson relies on free verse and does not bend to traditional formats of structure, rhyme, or rhythm. Despite this, she reveals a touching story, and the reader can sympathize with the pain and internal conflict with which Kana battles. The reader too embodies the turmoil and sorrow that Kana must learn to overcome. At the end of the novel, the reader applauds Kana for overcoming her mistakes and taking the initiative in designing and building a memorial for her classmates. The novel teaches that, in life, we make mistakes, but that, though it may be difficult, it is possible to persevere and do what is right for other and oneself. Moreover, Thompson is innovative in her use of Japanese throughout the story to expose readers not only to another culture but to the language as well. Lastly, Grady McFerrin provided minimal illustrations, which are scattered throughout the novel and reflect images within the text.
Reviews: Green, Beth. "Orchards." Library Media Connection 30.1 (2011): 79. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text. Web. 27 Feb. 2013.
"Written in free verse, Orchards is an excellent book to use when discussing bullying and school violence today. It will initially appeal to girls, but its message is universally vital and applicable."
Tran, Allison. "Orchards: A Novel." School Library Journal 57.3 (2011): 172. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text. Web. 27 Feb. 2013.
"The narrative is rich in authentic cultural detail and is complemented by attractive woodcut illustrations of Japanese imagery to evoke the story's setting. Thompson has crafted an exquisite, thought-provoking story of grief and healing that will resonate with teen readers and give them much to discuss."
"Orchards." Kirkus Reviews 79.1 (2011): 65. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text. Web. 27 Feb. 2013.
"Thompson composes simple, neat lines of verse that drive the plot perhaps more than they appeal to the senses... Nevertheless, this first young adult outing is a fast-paced page-turner that explores the rippling effects of suicide."
This would be a great book to read with a district or school initiative to combat bullying.
This could also be read in conjunction with other books or poems about bullying, perhaps different forms of bullying.
Students could write their own poems inspired by the novel and their own experiences with bullying.