Friday, May 6, 2011

Letters from Rapunzel, by Sara Lewis Holmes

I love libraries. You can go and browse and find all kinds of interesting-looking books and you can take them all home with you. And then if you don't get around to reading them, or you start reading them but they aren't as interesting as they looked, you just take them back, and it doesn't cost anything! (Unless you take them back late, but I always consider library fines to be my contribution to a worthy cause.)

I especially like it when I've been browsing blogs and I come up with lists of interesting-looking books, and then I go to my library and they have them! That happened the other day with Letters From Rapunzel. I was miserably sick, and I was browsing blogs because it was all I had the energy to do, and I came across Sara Lewis Holmes' blog (which had two great poems for Poetry Friday). Then I got sick of being stuck inside on a beautiful day so I went to the library (at least I was outside between my house and the library) and they had a whole bunch of the books I had found on the blogs, including Letters From Rapunzel. Score! It's like winning the jackpot. Then I came home and flopped on the couch feeling miserable and read Letters From Rapunzel, which is a quick read and a great story and made me feel much better.

"Rapunzel" is stuck in after school Homework Club because her father is in the hospital with a serious bout of depression and her mother works. Signing her name as Rapunzel because she feels as though she is locked in a tower, she begins writing letters to someone she thinks is a friend of her father's, asking for help saving her father from the Evil Spell he's under. The entire story is told in letter form; even when she doesn't get a response she continues writing as she tries to make sense of her father's illness and her own problems fitting in and meeting everyone's expectations.

Funny, imaginative, and perceptive, Rapunzel is a wonderful narrator. She can't ever do a homework project the way her teachers want, and her letters often include her wacky assignments. She weaves fairy tales and poetry into her letters, which become a diary of self-discovery. (We know she is getting somewhere when she finally signs her real name: Cadence.) Giving up on getting rescued by her unknown correspondent, Cadence takes matters into her own hands, with funny and poignant results. The Happily Ever After she comes up with is not the one she wanted, but it's one she creates for herself.

You'll like this book if you like first-person quirky narrators and if you like playing with fairy tale conventions and if you believe in poetry. I found it sweet and light with a serious heart; I truly cared about Cadence and her family, and her story's resolution was realistic and satisfying. A perfect afternoon-stuck-on-the-couch book.

Letters from Rapunzel is a homemade doughnut (the yeast kind, not the cake kind) with apple jelly filling and powdered sugar on top.

(And yes, I'm reading the last Chaos Walking book, but it's really intense: lots more bad things are happening to the characters and I don't want more bad things to happen to them! So I'm interspersing it with rereading the Mortal Instruments series before starting The City of Fallen Angels (fourth book of a trilogy, wouldn't you know.)

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