As we are about to close our Fractured Fairy Tale Special, I thought that it would be a good time to do one of our usual 3-in-1 Specials for this theme. This time we give space to Rachel Isadora’s amazing artwork in Rapunzel (2008), Hansel and Gretel (2009), and The Twelve Dancing Princesses (2007). Lovely books to share as well with the regulars of Book Talk Tuesday hosted by the librarian extraordinaire Kelly Butcher at the Lemme Library.

A Culturally Transplanted Fairy Story. In these three books, all the narratives remain true to the Brothers Grimm version that most people are familiar with. In Hansel and Gretel we have the usual elements: the wicked stepmother, passive father, gingerbread house, the witch, the breadcrumbs, and the oven where the witch dies.

In Rapunzel, we also have the cruel witch who locked Rapunzel up in a one-window tower, the beautiful long hair, the prince who followed the witch’s lead to gain entry into the tower, and the happy ever after. There is a slight variation though with Rapunzel portrayed as being with child.

I am not too familiar with The Twelve Dancing Princesses. I suppose this is not one of the more popular fairy tales but it has its own unique charm. A mystery is involved with the King wondering what his daughters are up to in the evenings – after seeing that their shoes always seem to be frayed and worn out in the morning. He then gave an edict that whoever discovers their secret could choose a princess for his wife.

The common thread running along all these fairy tales is that Rachel Isadora has recreated the classic stories in an African setting. Here, we can see the enchantment magnified with the artist’s visual and textual narrative, alongside the bounty of cultural elements that are now evident through the illustrations.

Collage Artwork and a Visual Feast. Each time I flip open a page from these three luscious books, I literally gasp in delight as I soak in the richness of the illustrations, the vibrant colors (browns, reds, oranges, greens, yellows), and the amazing landscapes, clothing, trees, animals – I feel like I am in Africa for a moment. I took a few book photos to provide you with a sampler of the stunning artwork from these three books:


The fearsome witch - the movement in this image is just .. mystifying
Just look at that glorious glorious hair!

Hansel and Gretel

I love this image of the forest - I could sense the terror of the children as they have been left to fend for themselves.
The Gingerbread House and the Witch who Resides Within the delectable Walls

The Twelve Dancing Princesses

Soo beautiful.
I like this one too... dancing under the starlights

Teacher Recommendations. There are a lot of possibilities that teachers can play around with in these books by Rachel Isadora:

(1) They could be used alongside the original narratives to tease out parallels and divergences

(2) Students could also be asked to create their own version of the fairy tale along a specific cultural theme – would the portrayal be different, if it is coming from, say – a Southeast asian context or reality?

(3) Sociocultural themes (princess in distress, gender roles), family portrayals (passive father, evil stepmothers) could likewise be discussed with an older age group.

(4) Art!! Play around with colors and collages. Splash paints around with Rachel Isadora as an inspiration. If anything, my hands were craving for my watercolor pencils and my paints as I flip through the pages. This could be a technique that can be introduced in an arts and crafts class – with the students possibly using this to create their own versions of the book.

Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

Rachel Isadora was originally a dancer before she became a renowned and award-winning children’s book artist. She was trained at George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet under a Ford Foundation scholarship and she has danced professionally in New York City, Boston and London (source here). Rachel has written over 150 books for children, most of which are set in Africa and the world of dance. Click here to be taken to her official website.

PictureBook Challenge Update: 101/102/103 of 120

PoC Reading Challenge Update: 42/43/44 (25)

Rapunzel retold and illustrated by Rachel Isadora, Putnam Juvenile, 2008. Book borrowed from the Community Library.

Hansel and Gretel retold and illustrated by Rachel Isadora, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2009. Book borrowed from the NIE Library.

The Twelve Dancing Princesses retold and illustrated by Rachel Isadora, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2007.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

6 comments on “Book Talk Tuesday: A 3-in-1 Rachel Isadora Special

  1. Hi, Myra. Wow. What beautiful books. I have heard of Rachel Isadora but didn’t know that she was a dancer. Neat! I really love how she changed the setting for these tales, too. Another great twist on classic fairy tales. I wasn’t familiar with The Twelve Dancing Princesses until recently, either, but there are actually lots of picture book versions out there. I’m hoping to do a post on one or more of them someday. By the way, this is totally unrelated, but have you seen the picture book JUNKYARD WONDERS by Patricia Polacco? I just read your bio on Blogger and it made me think of the book. I read it recently in the book store and was really touched by it. It’s a story about gifted children (who are also misfits in one way or another) and a teacher who changed their lives…


    • Hi Kerry! No I have not heard of Patricia Polacco’s Junkyard Wonders yet – I checked our community library, apparently it’s there – I thought it was YA fiction, apparently it’s a picture book? Nice! Will be visiting our community library next week, would definitely borrow this one. Thanks so much for the recommendation. Will let you know of any other dance-related picture books I also come across. 😉


  2. Pingback: Round up for September and Carnival of Children’s Literature |

  3. Pingback: The 2011 Reading Challenge Round Up |

  4. Pingback: List of Fractured Fairy Tales – A Gathering Books Recommendation |

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: