Ratpunzel: Hamster Princess, Book 3

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Ratpunzel: Hamster Princess, Book 3 Book Poster Image
Adventurous princess does the rescuing in fun graphic novel.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shares neat facts about the composition of rodent tails and reptilian eggs. Story offers alternative portrayal of a princess.

Positive Messages

Celebrates strength, self-reliance, courage, and friendship. Sometimes the smartest thing to do is run away -- even if you're a hero. Pokes fun at romantic impulsiveness, urging instead a more thoughtful, patient approach to love and romance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Harriet is compassionate and brave: Whenever she encounters someone (or something) in need, she wants to help. She's strong and courageous and proud of her fierceness and hard-earned skills. Harriet is careful to observe and plan before rushing to take action, though her people skills are so-so. Wilbur is devoted to his hydra and to Harriet, though he sometimes finds her exasperating. Harriet's mother worries for her safety, but her father appears understanding of Harriet's unique temperament.

Violence & Scariness

Animals are imprisoned in a creepy forest, and another is held in a tower by an emotionally manipulative witch.

Language

Witch is verbally abusive to Ratpunzel and calls her "stupid."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ratpunzel is the third fairy tale riff in the terrific Hamster Princess series by Ursula Vernon (Dragonbreath), this time featuring a rat imprisoned in a tower: Instead of lowering her hair to let her witchy captor in and out, Ratpunzel uses her impressively long tail. Sorcery is wielded as a weapon, and there's some fighting. Harriet -- a bold adventurer who's restless and bored at home -- is openly disdainful of traditional gender roles in fairy tales, but she appreciates that Ratpunzel has a different experience and perspective.

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What's the story?

In RATPUNZEL, Princess Harriet Hamsterbone has only just returned home, but she's already restless for adventure and chafing under her fretful mother's attention. So she's more than happy to help her friend Wilbur try to find out who stole his hydra's egg. Their search eventually takes them to a wood of strangely carved trees and an isolated tower, where they find Ratpunzel held captive by a selfish witch ... and egg thief. Although Harriet came for the egg, she can't leave Ratpunzel behind. She and Wilbur hatch a daring plan to try to steal the egg back and free Ratpunzel -- if they can steer clear of the witch.

Is it any good?

Princess Harriet turns fairy tale conventions on their head once again in her third graphic novel, a fast and hilarious read for would-be princesses, princes, and brave warriors of all types. Ratpunzel: Hamster Princess combines the classic tale of the magically long-haired prisoner with a whodunit involving a distraught mother and her stolen egg. Author Ursula Vernon balances sly jokes with just enough suspense to keep things from getting too comfortable. Harriet rolls her eyes at fairy tale traditions and is savvy enough to view her world through more practical eyes (would a rope climb really be the only way in or out of a tower?).

It's refreshing to see a female hero who can free not only the princess but a host of princes and would-be rescuers and then reject multiple offers of service and marriage ("I'm twelve!" she scolds her suitors). Vernon's illustrations -- colored in shades of gray and blue -- are just as charming as her wry, laugh-out-loud text.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Harriet views other female characters in Ratpunzel. She's a little disappointed in Ratpunzel but reminds herself that Ratpunzel's options have been very limited. Have you ever caught yourself being unfairly judgmental of someone?

  • Do you share Harriet's disinterest in princess story conventions? What appeals to you about more typical fairy tales?

  • Which traits make Harriet heroic?

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