This is another Caldecott Book winner (gold sticker) by Zelinsky that takes German and French folktales of Rapunzel and Petrosinella (respectively) and sets it in a world full of Italian influences. Rapunzel is born to a family who are living somewhere in Italy — you can tell from the outdoor gardens, Greek sculptures and the lovely terracotta tile roofs.
In the end notes, Zelinsky discusses the presence of a campanile, a bell tower, on the Italian landscape. With this in mind, he designed Rapunzel’s tower as a magnificent bell tower, ornate with geometic designs and a terra-cotta roof. Rapunzel is the belle in the tower (pun intended) and the story continues much as every version does.
Something I’ve always wondered about the sorceress is why she is angered at the news of Rapunzel’s pregnancy. Why did she want to keep Rapunzel “safe from the world”? Really, I think she means “safe from men” which leads me to wonder, is the sorceress sort of like the fairy tale version of Dickens’ Miss Havisham? Was she betrayed some time in her past? The possibilities are interesting.
In most versions of Rapunzel, this detail of her pregnancy has been changed and Rapunzel complains about how heavy the old woman is compared to the prince. I think this is grossly unfair to the sorceress. Who do you think would weigh more — a strapping, young and hale prince, or a feeble, elderly woman? I mean, come on Rapunzel! You wanted to have that conversation out, didn’t you? I wish I had a gif for every time I heard that story.
I wish that Zelinsky would do more fairy tales but he’s moved on to some other picture books, including The Wheels on the Bus. If you like these books illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky, you may also like these tall tales he’s illustrated:
- Swamp Angel
- Dust Devil