cover image Letters from Rapunzel

Letters from Rapunzel

Sara Lewis Holmes, . . HarperCollins, $15.99 (184pp) ISBN 978-0-06-078073-9

This moving debut novel, winner of the first Ursula Nordstrom Fiction Contest, unfolds as a series of letters, fairytale-inspired stories and tongue-in-cheek school assignments—all penned by an intelligent girl who calls herself Rapunzel. After her beloved poet father is hospitalized with clinical depression (what she calls "the Evil Spell"), she finds a soul-baring letter her father had written, addressed to a post office box. She decides to write notes to the P.O. box too, hoping that the recipient will respond and "together we can rescue him" [her father]. She confides in another letter that she identifies with Rapunzel ("She's not much of a heroine—just a victim in a tower") because she, too, feels "stuck." The plot gains new dimension when she finds, tucked into her father's dictionary, a clipping announcing that an old bridge is for sale and scheduled for dismantling—and later learns its significance to her father. Rapunzel (whose fitting real name, revealed late in the novel, is Cadence) pours out her pain and hope in equal measure, as she holds out for the "Happy Ending" that doesn't entirely emerge. The narrator's missives take on the conversational tone characteristic of middle graders, and many poignant passages as the heroine struggles with her father's illness, as well as the mysterious identity of the P.O. box owner, will keep thoughtful readers involved. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)