Life is not a fairy tale, but it can be an amazing journey. Letters from Rapunzel by Sara Lewis Holmes confirms this.
In this extraordinary epistolary juvenile novel, a young girl drafts letter after letter to P.O. Box #5667. She addresses her concerns there after seeing the post office box on an unfinished letter from her father. Now that he has been hospitalized for clinical depression (or, as she calls it, the "Evil Spell"), she feels as if this unknown recipient is her only touchstone to her displaced parent. Feeling as though she's trapped in a tower, she signs the letters "Rapunzel" and sends them out as signs of life, slivers of hope, perhaps even small calls for help.
Though the letters seem to be one-sided, the story is full and its protagonist three-dimensional. She acts her age and responds to her situation with equal parts optimism, realism, and cynicism. While waiting for her hardworking mother to pick her up from the dreaded afterschool Homework Club and waiting for her father to come home from the hospital, she channels her anxiety and emotions into her writing. Her short stories and letters reveal more about her own identity, even as she yearns to learn that of her would-be pen pal. Just as the heroine feels compelled to keep writing to the mysterious #5667, kids will feel compelled to keep reading her letters to the very end.
In response to the line I quoted at the top of this review, I say:
Each of us has the potential to be a hero, even as we're looking for someone else to save us.
I have included Letters from Rapunzel in booktalks and in booklists, including Tough Issues for Teens and the Best Books of 2007.
With the author's permission, I quoted my favorite poem from the book one Poetry Friday.
Read an excerpt from the book.
Read my interview with Sara Lewis Holmes.