Zelinsky, P. O. (1997). Rapunzel. New York, NY: Dutton Children’s Books.


This retelling of Rapunzel’s story follows the original version of the fairy tale. We meet a couple who have longed for a child for a great many years before the wife finally learns she is carrying a baby. While pregnant, she develops an intense craving for the rapunzel their sorceress neighbor grows in her garden. So intense is her craving, that she pleads with her husband to get it for her or she will surely die. Fearful for his wife’s life, the husband sneaks into the garden and retrieves it for her. Instead of satisfying her craving, however, tasting the herb causes it to increase. She again asks her husband to fetch rapunzel, and he agrees out of fear for her life again. This time, the sorceress catches him and demands that he relinquish his child to her when she is born in exchange for the rapunzel. She makes good on her deal and names the child Rapunzel, takes her away, and raises her as her own. When the child turns twelve, the sorceress locks her in a tower in the woods that only has one window at the very top through which the sorcerers could climb for her daily visits by using Rapunzel’s braid as a rope to climb.

A prince hears Rapunzel singing to the birds and falls instantly in love. After observing the sorceress’s visit, he learns how to enter the tower. He and Rapunzel fall instantly in love, are married, and meet in secret every night when he visits her tower. The sorceress discovers Rapunzel’s betrayal when she learns of her pregnancy. She banishes Rapunzel from the tower into the wilderness, cuts of her braids, and pushes her prince from the tower, blinding him, when he visits that night.

After months, Rapunzel gives birth to twins and eventually finds her prince. Her tears of sorrow heal his eyes, they find their way back to the kingdom, and live happily ever after.


The Renaissance-inspired illustrations create an even more magical feeling to this fairy tale. They further enhance the classical nature of this story and allow the reader to be swept up in the flow of the story without it seeming to be overly gruesome or scary as many original fairytales are.

The final illustration also brings the story almost full circle with one of the twins holding the herb rapunzel in their hand for their mother to see.


From Publisher’s Weekly:   “A breathtaking interpretation gives the fairy tale new art-historical roots, with illustrations that daringly-and effectively-mimic the masters of Italian Renaissance painting.”

From Kirkus Reviews: “ As Zelinsky (The Wheels on the Bus, 1990, etc.) explains in a long source note, the story’s Italian oral progenitor went through a series of literary revisions and translations before the Brothers Grimm published their own take; he draws on many of these to create a formal, spare text that is more about the undercurrents between characters than crime and punishment.”


-Read with other fairytales:

The Princess and the Pea by Hans Christian Andersen

Cinderella by Marcia Brown

The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen

The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Rachel Isadora

Thumbelina by Hans Christian Andersen

-Read with a twisted version of the story such as Falling for Rapunzel by Leah Wilcox.

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