Classroom Teaching Guide
What if Rapunzel rescued herself? In this rousing retelling of the fairy tale, set in the Old West, Rapunzel doesn’t wait around for a rescue—she makes use of her unnaturally long hair to free herself and go after the “mother” who imprisoned her. Along the way, she picks up Jack, a fast-talking con artist who happens to have a pet goose and a lucky bean, and the two grow to trust each other through their action-packed adventures. Can Rapunzel defeat the nasty Mother Gothel and rescue her real mother? And why is Jack carrying around a goose?
Authors Shannon and Dean Hale and artist Nathan Hale (no relation) have created a book that is truly all-ages; younger readers will love the laughs and adventure, while older readers will enjoy digging into the layers of imagery and nuanced storytelling.
Reading a Comic or Graphic Novel
If you’re new to graphic novels, here are some tips.
–Read the panels on the page from left to right and top to bottom, and read within each panel the same way. You can read words and then pictures, or pictures first and then words, but be sure to read them both. Re-reading is also important in graphic novels to see how the pictures and words work together.
–Word balloons contain dialogue. The tail of the balloon points to the speaker. Fluffy, cloud-like bubbles mean someone is thinking, not speaking. Some word balloons have different shapes or outlines to give emphasis or show that someone is whispering. In this book, caption boxes present Rapunzel’s narration, similar to a voice-over in film.
–Slow down and take it all in. It is important to read both the text and the images and see how they work together. Read each panel and also look at each page as a whole.
–Think about what you don’t see. What happens in the gutters (the spaces between the panels)? In comics and graphic novels, the reader must actively participate by filling in the action from panel to panel.
Close Reading and Analysis in the Classroom
- When reading a graphic novel together it is necessary for everyone to have a good view of the pages. In small groups, students can share copies of the book. For whole-class reading, you can project the pages with a document camera.
- Start by asking students what they already know about reading comics and graphic novels. Review vocabulary such as panel, word balloon, caption, sound effect, and gutter by finding examples in the book.
- Students may be tempted to just read the text and skip over the pictures, but in graphic novels the text and the pictures are both integral to the story. Encourage students to take their time on each page and re-read at least once.
- If you are reading the book together, give students time to look silently and carefully at each page before reading the text. Then you can have students read the narration and dialogue on the page aloud. Finally, ask students to point out what they notice in the images, describing the characters’ appearance, the setting, and the action.
- When doing close reading and analysis of the book, require students to provide text evidence from both the images and the text. Both are equally important!
- Ask students to analyze the way different characters show their personalities and attitudes through body language and facial expressions. How does artist Nathan Hale show what someone is thinking or feeling in the way he draws them?
- Have students analyze panel layouts. Look for variations in panel size, shape, and grouping, repeating or mirroring panels, and panels without background art. What do the creators want the reader to feel or notice with each type of panel?
- Ask students to think critically about the use of color in this book. In particular, how does Hale use color to show flashbacks or memories? Is this effective? Why?
- Look at how viewpoint affects the reader’s understanding of the story. How do close-up panels showing a character’s face differ from faraway views showing an entire city or landscape? How does the juxtaposition or repetition of viewpoints direct the reader’s attention and help tell the story?
- This story is full of wild action sequences. How does Hale use line, color, panel size and placement, and viewpoint to give the reader a feeling of action and motion while making sure we can understand exactly what is happening?
Discussion Questions/Writing Prompts
- How do the creators build this story around the original tale of Rapunzel? Where are the original and this story the same and different? Can you find other old tales woven into Rapunzel’s Revenge?
- How does the art show the differences in the natural settings Jack and Rapunzel visit? How does this enhance the story and/or help the reader?
- Where do Rapunzel’s narration and the images contradict each other? Why do you think the authors did this? What effect does it have on the reader?
- Rapunzel says, “And even though my life was on the line, and my mother’s too, I realized that I trusted him.” Why does Rapunzel grow to trust Jack? Look for specific instances in the story when he proved himself to be trustworthy. Remember to cite both images and text.
- Rapunzel asks, “What’s the matter with this stupid world? Why’s everyone always grabbing and pushing?” Jack answers, “You’ve gotta grab and push back to survive.” How do Rapunzel and Jack’s morals and beliefs differ in the beginning? How do their attitudes change over the course of the book?
- How does Rapunzel change over the course of the story? Find text evidence in both the words and the images that show her growth in confidence and maturity.
- The themes of growth and imprisonment or restriction run throughout this story. What imagery symbolizes these themes?
- Rapunzel’s Revenge has been called a “feminist fairytale.” How do the creators show the empowerment of female characters in both text and images?
Teacher Guide/Review by Tracy Edmunds, M.A.Ed.