So, this is one I've checked out of the library several times since Chandra turned me onto this book
, and Zelinsky in general. The last time was after taking the kids to see Tangled, which, for me anyway, was the typical Disney experience: I loved the animal sidekicks, thought the music was uneven, and winced at much of the latent Freud-called stuff that they spent so much time trying to ignore or cover up. The fairy tale of Rapunzel is absolutely shot-through with sexuality, procreation, Oedipal crisis, etc etc, and even if you try to strip that stuff out, it's nigh on impossible, and then makes it weird that you even tried. This story is about those uncomfortable and necessary things.
I want to eat this book. I want to roll around in its pages so their beauty rubs off on my skin. Zelinsky paints amazing, Renaissance-inflected art, which works well just as itself, and also with the Italian version of this tale that he rewrites. The last pages are Zelinsky's explanations of how he came about this version of Rapunzel, the history of the folklore, the varying motifs and images. The folklorist in me wants to kiss him breathless for the respect he shows to the wide and changing river of the folk story.
It's possible that this kind of diligence could be the death of fun - yet another story that I try to foist on the kids when all they want is a singing animal sidekick and a few jokes - but Zelinsky's art caught them too - the way he hides animals in the images, so we would hunt for the cat that can be found in almost every panel, or all of the odd details that had the boy pointing - Oh! look at that! And beautiful, beautiful.
There were some hard questions, but not the ones I expected. Rapunzel gets pregnant in her secret meetings with the prince, although this is dealt with metonymously - her dress gets tight. (If you're the kind of parent who doesn't want even the possibility of talking about where babies come from at bedtime, then this is not the book for you. Fair warning.) My kids didn't ask me this question though, because mostly my kids don't care where babies come from. They were curious about why Rapunzel is never reunited with her parents, because she isn't. The happy ending is her reunion with her prince husband. I can't really answer that one, but I hugged them pretty tight when they asked. Not ever finding her parents is the way the story was told this one time. We can tell it other ways, and those can be good too. That's what I love about folktales.