When the wonderful associates at Penguin Young Readers asked us to join their Ratpunzel Blog Tour, I’m pretty sure I was among the first to reply. One of my daughters had read it in just a couple of sittings and couldn’t stop raving about it. Her twin sister of course had to read it next, so I have invited both of them to share with me – and with you – why they think Ratpunzel (and Ursula Vernon’s other Hamster Princess stories) should be high on your list of books to find for your elementary school student.
“Princess Harriet Hamsterbone does not like sitting around at home. How’s a princess supposed to have any fun when her parents are constantly reminding her to be careful and act princessly? So when her pal Prince Wilbur needs help finding a stolen hydra egg, Harriet happily takes up the quest. The thief’s trail leads them to a wicked witch and a tall tower, occupied by a rat whose tail has more to it than meets the eye!
The third book in the award-winning comic hybrid Hamster Princess series will make you look at rodents, royalty, and fairy tales in a whole new light.”
TDL: So tell me about Ratpunzel. What did you think of it?
A: I really liked it, and I love all the other Hamster Princess books, too.
E: I think it’s really, really cool.
TDL: Which other Hamster Princess books have you read?
A: I read Harriet the Invincible, which is the first, and I also read Of Mice and Magic. Elise read both of them after me so we’ve read them all.
TDL: Cool! So you’re very familiar with the Rapunzel story, in general. Is Ratpunzel the exact same story? Tell me how it relates to the fairy tale people might already know.
A: It’s kind of the same. There’s a rat with a very, very, very long tail, and she lives with Mother Gothel. Ratpunzel has magical tears, which Mother Gothel uses to turn people into trees… or actually I guess Ratpunzel uses them to save people that Mother Gothel has trapped. Instead of a prince finding her in a tower, it’s Harriet Hamsterbone.
E: I like that Mother Gothel always has “Sad Story Time” to try and get Ratpunzel’s magical tears. She stores them in jars with labels. Even if a story has a happy ending, she stops right in the middle of a conflict and ends it when it’s bad, even if the story is actually awesome.
TDL: Is there anything that really surprised you as you were reading, like you knew the story of Rapunzel and all of a sudden it was totally different than you expected?
A: It was pretty much the same except for Sad Story Time. I predicted pretty much what was happening overall.
E: Well, something happens to Wilbur – but it’s a big fat spoiler alert, so I can’t tell you.
TDL: The cover says that the author, Ursula Vernon, is the “award-winning creator of the Dragonbreath series. Do you know anything about that series, or know anyone who reads those books?
A: Not really.
E: No, there was one that I tried to read but it was kind of boring. I think I just don’t like that story, though. Or maybe I was too little.
TDL: That’s ok, it just reminds me of some of the other books that you read that have a series dedicated to each main character. They may appeal to different kids, but they’re tied together.
A: Oh! Also, Harriett’s friend Wilber has a pet with five heads. They have to get its egg back after Mother Gothel steals it, and it has a suuuuuper cute baby that hatches out of it. [Shows the pictures]
TDL: It has a lot of pictures! They’re almost like comic book pictures – though it’s not setup like a comic book, it’s just in paragraph form. Do you think the pictures are pretty cool to see as you’re reading?
A: Yeah, I like that there are lots of them but they’re all in the black and white and purple no matter what the picture is of.
E: I like them. I don’t really like to read books without pictures very often because they feel really long and I get bored. I like these actual pictures a lot, too.
TDL: So why should people read (or encourage their family members to read) Ratpunzel?
E: Because it’s awesome.
TDL: Ok, how about more than that. What are some specific reasons that people should read it? 🙂
E: It’s really funny, and the names have things like “rat” in them in a really, um… creative way.
TDL: So the story is funny, and it’s written in a clever way. Avery, what’s another reason that someone should read the book?
A: If you like comic books, I think you’ll really like the pictures and the plot.
E: I don’t think you should read this before you’ve read Harriet the Invincible and Of Mice and Magic, though.
TDL: Oh ok! From what you’ve told me, it seems like this story is fine to read by itself. But you think it would be better if readers had finished the first two books before this one?
E: I think maybe. It’s just that you wouldn’t, like, know Wilbur or anyone.
A: Yeah, he would just pop up and you wouldn’t know the story or anything about him except that he’s a random friend.
E: Yeah, and you get to know Harriet better, too. Like you might be really confused when says she was invincible, and you wouldn’t already know all of the things you learned about her in the other stories.
TDL: I understand. Like most books and movies in a series, I can imagine it definitely adds a lot of value the more you get to know the characters. But if someone wants to read this book and just picks it up, or a mom or dad gets it for their kids, it sounds like it does give you a little bit of background information when you need it. Would the reader be able to enjoy the story without being confused?
A: Oh, definitely. It would just be like you’re better friends with the characters if you’ve read the other one.
TDL: Why should people read the Hamster Princess books in general? What do you think makes them unique?
E: If you’re someone who likes princesses but not cute, squeaky, ‘Oh my!’ princesses, you want to read this one and have adventures. (For the record, I’m not exactly sure what an ‘Oh my!’ princess is, but her inflection definitely helped. Also,
my girls all three of my kids love princessy princesses, so this was such a funny statement to me – however relevant it may be!)
A: Yeah! She’s a hero and a princess. And she jumps off cliffs!
E: It’s kind of weird weird. It’s like opposite in the stories, from what you expect. Harriet is a princess who wants to be adventurous and stuff, and the boy is kind of like a normal princess, even though he’s a prince.
TDL: Did you think this was a hard book to read, easy to read, somewhere in the middle…?
E: If you like chapter books instead of picture books, but want bigger-size words – not like tiny printed words in the Bible – then this is a good one. It would have only taken me a couple of days to read it but I left it at school and kept forgetting to get it back for most of the week.
TDL: The author seems to take stories that already exist, like Rapunzel and Of Mice and Men, and put Harriet in them as the star. What do you think you’d like to see her write next?
E: I feel like since the first one was about sleeping beauty, and the second one was some dancing mice story, and this one is about Rapunzel, the next one should be…. maybe snow white or ariel.
A (to Elise): Like how would that go? What do you mean?
E: I don’t know. I just like those stories.
TDL: Any other reasons people should pick up a copy?
E: Because it’s just good. And because the books all have really cool titles. Actually, I just feel like people would be forced to read it when they see it somewhere [I think she was going for something along the lines of “compelled” :)]. Like they’d see the cover and they would think, “That looks really good, I want to read it right now.”
TDL: Oh yeah, like even the cover looks really exciting and would make people interested in it.
TDL: Are there any good lessons or anything you’ve learned from Ratpunzel that you want to share?
E: Never trust anyone who always only has “Sad Story Time”.
Pretty solid advice, if you ask me.
Save this recommendation for later (or add it to someone’s Christmas list!) by pinning the following image.
Check out the other writers covering Ratpunzel later this week!
Crafty Moms Share is adding a fun craft to their review on October 18
Margie’s Must Reads is shining a spotlight on the book on October 19
Insatiable Reads will have their review on October 20
and As they Grow Up will give you even more reasons to check out the Hamster Princess series on October 21
PS – If you need further convincing, check out the book trailer here!