My kindergartners and first graders can’t get enough of fairy tales. And the second graders have a whole unit for studying folktales and fairytales from around the world. Ying Chang Compestine is queen of retellings, and RA PU ZEL AND THE STINKY TOFU, with its feisty heroine, adorable pup, and glorious meals, may be my favorite yet.
In this spin on Rapunzel, princess Pu Zel is constantly being reprimanded by her parents and governess for engaging in culinary pursuits, gobbling down her meals, and forgoing a fancy hairstyle for a long braid to keep her hair out of her food. In everyone’s eyes, she is a very unprincesslike princess. Fed up, she locks herself in a tower with her dog, Bao. When her mother calls to her to let down her hair, Pu Zel uses her braid to pull up baskets of food. Soon she begins cooking elaborate meals in the tower, attracting princes from far and wide with the delicious aromas.
The Emperor issues a proclamation that any prince who is able to entice Pu Zel from the tower will gain her hand in marriage. Hapless princes make disastrous attempts to impress Pu Zel, but one young chef discovers the way to the princess’s heart.
RA PU ZEL AND THE STINKY TOFU is the kind of fresh take on a familiar story that captures children’s imaginations and transports them to a fantastical world. Readers will relate to the tension between a spirited main character and the grownups who expect things done in a specific way. This lighthearted tale contains plenty of silly mishaps to bring on the giggles. Crystal Kung’s appealing, animated style, filled with blues, purples, and greens, bursts with humor and charm. Back matter includes explanations of stinky tofu, Chinese names, and the origins of the story. A recipe for (non-stinky) tofu is also featured.