A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Back matter explains the Chinese naming convention of putting the last name first, so main character Pu Zel, whose family name is Ra, is known as Ra Pu Zel. But in most of the story she's called by her own name, Pu Zel. Back matter also describes what stinky tofu is (fermented tofu), its origins in ancient China, and how it remains a popular dish in China today. The book includes a recipe for Non-Stinky Pan-Fried Tofu that kids can make.
You don't always have to live up to other people's expectations of you. Find happiness in following your passion. When it comes to food, try the unexpected—you just might like it.
Positive Role Models
Pu Zel is described as "strong-willed, independent, and loves to cook." She defies her parents' wishes and locks herself in her tower rather than entertain suitors her parents have chosen for her. She pursues her passion for cooking even though her mother insists, "The kitchen is no place for a princess!" In the end, she teams up—and falls in love—with a young chef who cooks her a specialty dish she'd never tried and didn't expect to like but did as soon as she tasted it. Her parents and governess try to make her behave like "a proper princess" but ultimately understand she must go her own way. Pu Zel's trusty dog Bao stays in the tower with her, serves as her official taster, and after sniffing and trying the young chef's stinky tofu, leads her to try it as well.
The story is set in China with all Chinese characters and has roots in Chinese history and culture. Pu Zel bucks stereotypes of the way a "proper" princess should behave and takes control of her own life. Some class differences are shown, as readers see Pu Zel is not interested in the princes her emperor father and empress mother would prefer she consider for marriage. She chooses instead a commoner: a chef who shares her interest in cooking.
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Violence & Scariness
One of the princes who climbs Ra Pu Zel's tower to court her "falls to the ground" and we see a tiny, comic image of him descending through the air but do not see him get hurt on landing.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Ra Pu Zel and the Stinky Tofu, by Ying Chang Compestine, adds a Chinese, feminist, and food-oriented twist to the classic European Rapunzel tale. As she did previously with Little Red Riding Hood and the Dragon and The Chinese Emperor's New Clothes, Compestine revises a well-known story to make it her own. As unseen narrator, she introduces her version as the "real" way the story unfolded—in China. Illustrator Crystal Kung, a character designer for Pixar Animation Studios, brings to life Compestine's vivid characters and snappy storytelling. Themes include courage, integrity, perseverance, and teamwork.
Is It Any Good?
In this lively, engaging rewrite of the Rapunzel story, the long-haired princess takes control of her destiny and follows her foodie passion instead of parents' expectations. Changing the setting from Europe to China and putting the focus on Pu Zel's love of food and cooking offers all sorts of possibilities for talented illustrator Crystal Kung. There's so much personality in each character and so much action on each page, reading the colorful picture book feels almost like watching an animated film. And Ying Chang Compestine's masterful storytelling maintains a great pace of action, conflict, and resolution. Ra Pu Zel and the Stinky Tofu is a fun adventure steeped in Chinese culture and cuisine.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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