Friday, September 16, 2011

Review: Rapunzel's Revenge & Calamity Jack

by Shannon and Dean Hale
Illustrated by Nathan Hale

Rapunzel's Revenge Information:
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published August 19th 2008 by Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (first published August 5th 2008)

Summary (from Goodreads):
Once upon a time, in a land you only think you know, lived a little girl and her mother . . . or the woman she thought was her mother.

Every day, when the little girl played in her pretty garden, she grew more curious about what lay on the other side of the garden wall . . . a rather enormous garden wall.

And every year, as she grew older, things seemed weirder and weirder, until the day she finally climbed to the top of the wall and looked over into the mines and desert beyond.

Newbery Honor-winning author Shannon Hale teams up with husband Dean Hale and brilliant artist Nathan Hale (no relation) to bring readers a swashbuckling and hilarious twist on the classic story as you’ve never seen it before. Watch as Rapunzel and her amazing hair team up with Jack (of beanstalk fame) to gallop around the wild and western landscape, changing lives, righting wrongs, and bringing joy to every soul they encounter.

Calamity Jack information:
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published January 5th 2010 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

Summary (from Goodreads):
Jack likes to think of himself as a criminal mastermind…with an unfortunate amount of bad luck. A schemer, plotter, planner, trickster, swindler...maybe even thief? One fine day Jack picks a target a little more giant than the usual, and one little bean turns into a great big building-destroying beanstalk. With help from Rapunzel (and her trusty braids), a pixie from Jack’s past, and a man with inventions from the future, they just might out-swindle the evil giants and put his beloved city back in the hands of good people ....while catapulting themselves and readers into another fantastical adventure.

My Review:
I cannot come up with words to describe how much I love these two books. They are my comfort books, the ones I turn to when I've had hard day. They're the books I recommend to absolutely everyone, whether they're in elementary school or have kids out of school.

Both books are twists on classic fairytales. Rapunzel's Revenge takes the tale of Rapunzel and sticks it in the Old West, with a totally awesome heroine instead of the good-for-nothing girl from the original story. She uses  her braids as a whip and lasso, and sets off with her sidekick (and plan-maker) Jack. Together they set off through the West toward Gothel's villa to save Rapunzel's mother and stop Gothel once and for all.

Calamity Jack takes place after Rapunzel's Revenge and focuses on Jack's character and backstory. Jack and Raupunzel cook up a plan to expose the giant Blunderboar, who has taken control of the city.

Both are illustrated in full color by the wonderful Nathan Hale, both are hilarious, full of action and adventure, and both are perfect to read when you're feeling a little overwhelmed, or if you just want something fun. I gave them to my cousin last December for the holidays, and she didn't put them down for days, except for when her younger brother, still learning to read, borrowed them.

A highlight is the witty banter between Jack and Punzie. Both books are chock-full of jokes, which, I am told, Dean takes all the credit for, although Shannon swears that at least half are hers.

Another is the illustration. The Hales have created a unique and new Rapunzel/Jack and the Beanstalk story, and Nathan Hale's illustrations clearly show that. Also, the books are written to focus on the visuals. As Nathan phrases it, there was no need to write a graphic novel that looked like a low-budget movie. He could draw anything.  And he certainly does. In Rapunzel's Revenge alone, out heroes face a rampaging boar, a pack of coyotes, and a giant water snake, not to mention Rapunzel being locked in a giant tree.

These are the type of book you can read over and over and never get tired of. Even though I make a point of writing down every book I read, I rarely write down Rapunzel's Revenge and Calamity Jack anymore. Often, I'll flip to a random page, read a bit, and put it back on the shelf. That's all I need to cheer me up.

Overall Thoughts: If you're going to read any books on my recommendation, pick up these two. You will not be disappointed.

And, a bonus! Nathan Hale has made Rapunzel and Jack paper dolls. The Rapunzel ones are here (as a PDF) and the Jack ones are here (as a series of blog posts - scroll down a bit for the paper dolls).

I read these books for my Fortnight of Old Favorites Challenge.

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