Ra Pu Zel and the Stinky Tofu

Penguin/Rocky Pond. Jan. 2024. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593533055.
Gr 1-3–In this fractured fairy tale, the classic story of “Rapunzel” is set long ago in China and follows a determined and empowered princess named Ra Pu Zel. She is constantly being scolded by the empress for her love of cooking and is encouraged to be the perfect princess she was destined to be. In protest, Ra Pu Zel decides to lock herself and her flowing braids in her tower to eat and cook in peace. Her parents are desperate for her to leave the tower and offer her hand in marriage to anyone who can convince her to come down. When a young chef begins cooking a batch of stinky tofu beneath her window, Ra Pu Zel is compelled out of her tower to investigate and eventually falls in love with the fermented tofu and the young chef. Kung’s vibrant depictions create a cozy background for this retelling of how stinky tofu became one of the most famous dishes across Asia. Kung’s dynamic illustrations take a comic approach, with close-ups of Ra Pu Zel munching and cinematic scenes of the setting that will engage readers already familiar with graphic novels. Back matter includes an author’s note in which Compestine describes her childhood in China in the late 1960s and how she took great joy in creating a strong-willed and freethinking protagonist in Ra Pu Zel. Also included is a recipe for pan-fried tofu.
VERDICT This creative retelling of “Rapunzel,” that combines feminism, fairy tales, and food, will be enjoyed by all.

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