If you think you know Rapunzel’s story, you might wish to reconsider now that “Grounded” has arrived in bookstores. This new novel, aimed at students in grades 5-9, was written by Megan Morrison, a middle school language arts and drama teacher in King County. Although Morrison clearly knows how to reach the audience she is writing for, this captivating adventure has the potential to garner an even broader following.
The story begins with Rapunzel living in isolation, high up in an enchanted tower in the land of Tyme. She has plenty of games and distractions and books that feature her at the center of every tale. Her every wish is attended to by the beautiful and doting Witch. Rapunzel never really feels lonely, because this is all she knows.
But Witch is away one day when a thief named Jack manages to scale the tower on a mission to steal a magical rose. When he gets back down to the ground safely, he taunts her with the fact that the rose’s dew possesses curative powers for the fairies, who are Witch’s enemies.
Infuriated by Jack’s manner and panicked that she would have done anything to endanger her benefactress’s well-being, Rapunzel descends the tower for the first time and gives chase. All too quickly, she discovers that some of Witch’s warnings about the world’s dangers are true – she is captured by fairies who harbor ill will toward her.
Rapunzel’s life is spared only through the charity of the lead fairy who, after interviewing her and realizing her naiveté, sends her on a quest to seek out the elusive Woodmother who can reveal Rapunzel’s true identity. And because Rapunzel is such a babe in the woods, the fairy also commands Jack (she calls him Beanstalker) to accompany her on her journey.
After a slow and overly talky start, the pace of this story picks up and the adventures begin in earnest. Jack and Rapunzel must travel through different kingdoms to get to the land where they hope to find the Woodmother. Along the way, Jack teaches Rapunzel about everything from families to umbrellas to money.
But Rapunzel’s a quick study, and she also learns about intangibles like cooperation, resourcefulness, and resilience – like friendship, and other points of view.
Witch had warned Rapunzel about the world’s dangers, but hadn’t mentioned all of the other things – the sights and smells and sounds and other living beings – that make Tyme – and life – so interesting.
Subtly, author Morrison weaves ideas about the value of first-hand experience into “Grounded” – every day can bring a new adventure.
She also invests her fairy tale characters with the complexities of humanity – this is less a story of good against evil, and more a story of courage versus fear, and a cleverly disguised exploration of the development of any soul.
Rapunzel and Jack are smart, spirited, complicated, first-rate protagonists and anyone who reads “Grounded” will be happy to know that this fetching tale is the first in a series.
The Bookmonger is Barbara Lloyd McMichael, who writes this weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.