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For Biddle's Sake: 06/26/11
In reading and blogging, I love making connections, especially to literary inspirations. Stories and books can and should stand alone for those who don't know the literary origins, but recognizing a retelling or an homage makes the experience all the more rich.
In the case of For Biddle's Sake by Gail Carson Levine, I only recognized half of the inspiration: Rapunzel. It wasn't until reading the post on Lyndi's Favorite Books that I learned of the other story behind the book, "Puddocky", and old German tale retold in Andrew Lang's Green Fairy Book.
In For Biddle's Sake, Parsley as an infant will only eat the herb she's named for. Her father is caught stealing from the evil fairy's garden. So, like Rapunzel, Parsley is taken as payment. Unlike Rapunzel, she's put into the service of Bombina, instead of being locked away in a tower.
Parsley enjoys her time with Bombina, and she with Parsley. But she can't control her temper. She lets off steam by turning things into toads. And one day Parsley gets in the way. That's where the Puddocky story takes over.
What makes Levine's books so great is that her female protagonists can think. Parsley doesn't just pine away in the pond waiting to be rescued. She works with the youngest prince to help him solve the problem of his twin brothers while working on her own solution at the same time.
For Biddle's Sake was the first chapter book that Harriet sat through. We read a chapter or two every couple of days. It kept her attention all the way through.