{Review} RUMP: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff

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RUMP: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin will be available NEXT WEEK on April 9th, 2013, 
but you can pre-order your copy now!

O P E N I N G   H O O K:
MY MOTHER NAMED ME AFTER A COW'S REAR END.  It's the favorite village joke, and probably the only one, but it's not really true.  At least, I don't think it's true, and neither does Gran.  Really, my mother had another name for me, a wonderful name, but no one ever heard it.  They only heard the first part.  
The worst part.
(Page 10, US e-ARC edition;
changes may occur before the final version releases)

Rumpelstiltskin has never been my favorite fairy tale, and yet two books during this year's Fairy Tale Fortnight have made me rethink the tale.  The first was YA title RUMPLESTILTSKIN by Jenni James, which I reviewed the other day.  Now, with the middle-grade offering of RUMP: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin, I once again find myself caring about the odd character from the original tale.  Unlike in the version from Jenni James, where Rumplestiltskin is the cursed brother of a greedy king and in love with the girl himself, this Rumpelstiltskin is an ordinary boy.  If, of course, having the ability to turn straw into gold is ordinary.  He's figuring out the truth behind the magic coursing through his veins and is sucked into happenings beyond his control.

Rump has grown up never knowing his full name.  His mother died moments after childbirth, whispering his name in his ear and only uttering its unfortunate beginning, "Rump," aloud.  He gets made fun of all the time, too.  After all, who wants to be named after a rear end?  Names hold power, too, and without his full name, Rump is only half a person, smaller and weaker than the other boys his age.  One day, his ailing grandmother throws away his mother's old spinning wheel, which he rescues from the trash.  Messing around with it one night against her wishes, he discovers that he can turn straw into gold.  Gold is huge in the mountains, and everyone goes out daily to mine for what little the pixies haven't gotten to in order to survive.  Being weaker, Rump rarely finds anything, and he and his Gran never have enough to eat.  With this gold, he knows he can change their fortunes for the better.  Until the Miller cheats him out of a good deal.  Until his Gran passes away.  Until the greedy King comes to the Mountains to find out the truth behind his new influx of gold.

The just-as-greedy Miller, of course, claims that he has a gifted daughter, and Opal is quickly whisked away to turn straw into gold for the king--with Rump's house.  Rump is once again forced into unfair bargains, where he must accept whatever is offered, never able to barter due to the strength of the magic upon him.  She offers her gold necklace the first night, her mother's precious ring the second, and on the third, she promises him her unborn child.  Rump doesn't even want a baby, but he's forced to accept.  After the third night he flees in search of Yonder, where his mother came from.  If he can find out the truth behind his name and his family history, maybe he can change the course of his own destiny.  If he never hears that the Queen has had a baby, he never needs to return and take it.  But he does hear.  Compelled to return, the traditional tale of Rumpelstiltskin plays out in a way familiar to readers, yet being seen through Rump's eyes, has a distinctly "new" feel to it.

I really enjoyed seeing Rumpelstiltskin from Rump's perspective.  He wants none of what he's forced to endure, and knowing the way the original tale goes, it's intriguing to see everything familiar from the traditional tale knotted up in a new way.  We've misunderstood the tale all these centuries, having seen it from the eyes of the Queen, not those of the magical spinner himself.  The Miller and his family are greedy, vile characters, as is the King.  They care for nothing but gold, gold, gold, and will hurt anyone in order to get more of what they want.  Liesl Shurtliff does a great job shining light on these characters even as their greediness remains by-the-book, making readers really sympathize with poor Rump.  And Rump!  Kids will really relate to him as he journeys to discover himself over the course of the book.  His story is bound together in a creative way with Little Red Riding Hood through his relationship with his one and only friend Red.  Red is a great female character, and not in the book nearly enough.  It would fun to see a book or novella featuring her in the future!  I especially loved the way she could somehow form paths in the woods where there were none previously, and would love to see the magic involved beyond that.

With the mix of boy humor that comes from a boy called "Butt," the addition of a gal pal, and the resonating message of self-discovery, RUMP: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin is perfect for the middle-grade readers it's aimed for as well as fun for older readers.
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I am super in love with cover.  

The illustrations are FABULOUS.  It's fun that Red gets to be included on the cover alongside Rump, which makes it appeal to both girls and boys.  Those twist trees are fabulous and full of character, as is the twisty cover.  I also love the translucent fairies with their glowing wings, who play such a vital role in the story.  And the fact that the only "gold" is the title, RUMP, and the light glowing from the window and highlighting the Miller's daughter?  Um, perfection!

The angle of this cover and the way everything moves upward reminded me a lot of the cover from ORDINARY MAGIC (And, ironically, OM author Caitlen Rubino-Bradway stopped by yesterday with her own fairy tale guest post) and SEVEN SORCERERS BY Caro King (hardback cover, not paperback version).  And, well, it SHOULD, because when I checked the credits, the same artist, Zdenko Basic, designed RUMP.  I love all of the covers I've seen from Zdenko Basic so far!  Zdenko Basic has also designed, for example, GRIMSDON by Deborah Abela and 13 TREASURES by Michelle Harrison.  It's a really unique style, but fun, pretty, and perfect for middle-grade!  

More Illustrations from Zdenko Basic
O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Title:  RUMP: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin
Author: Liesl Shurtliff 
Release Date: April 9, 2013
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers / Random House
Received: For Review

In a magical kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone's joke. 

Rump has never known his full name—his mother died before she could tell him. So all his life he's been teased and bullied for his half-a-name. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. For Rump discovers he can spin straw into gold. Magical gold. 

His best friend Red Riding Hood warns him that magic is dangerous—and she's right! That gold is worth its weight in trouble. And with each thread he spins, Rump weaves himself deeper into a curse. 

There's only one way to break the spell: Rump must go on a quest to find his true name, along the way defending himself against pixies, trolls, poison apples, and one beautiful but vile-mannered queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—Rump just might triumph in the end. 

An inventive fairytale retelling, perfect for fans of Gail Carson Levine or Shannon Hale.