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:
Hansel and Gretel
The Twelve Dancing Princesses
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.
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.
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.