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Book Reviews

Three Prince Charming Tales: Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel

by Marilyn Helmer, Kasia Charko, illus.

Some critics think we’ve had enough of these passive girls modelling beauty and marriage to our daughters. But there is a mysterious power in these tales of girls with memorable names who marry anonymous fellows. This title is the first in Kids Can’s Once-Upon-A-Time Series of fairy tales.

The decision to group these three similar stories together is inspired. When read consecutively, the tales acquire a cumulative force. They are about girls at a particularly potent age, the threshold of adulthood. Each girl endures a period of extreme isolation; Rapunzel, snatched from her family at birth, is the most isolated of the three. None has a real mother to help her find her way in the world; there are only substitute mothers who strive to impede the girls’ progress. For each, marriage signifies a return to the social order, to life itself. Each surface narrative seems to mask much hidden significance.

Helmer has generally followed the classic versions by Perrault and the Grimms. She is careful to include moments, however small, where each girl finds her own power. Cinderella smugly pulls the other glass slipper from her pocket. Snow White, revived not by the prince’s kiss but by the dislodging of the poisoned apple, listens to the prince talk and then decides that she can love him. Rapunzel’s tears heal the eyes of the prince who was blinded by falling into the thorn bushes beneath her tower.

Charko’s vivid illustrations capture both the latent emotion of the tales and the feel of times past. Like Helmer’s rich vocabulary, the pictures will challenge readers to ask thoughtful questions.