Wednesday, December 4, 2013
REVIEW: Rump by Liesl Shurtliff
Genre: Fantasy/Fairy Tale
Audience: Middle-grade (upper elementary & and younger middle school)
Summary: In a land where your destiny is determined by your name, Rump is out of luck. No one—not Rump and not even his beloved grandmother —knows his true name because his mother died before she could tell anyone. All she was able to get out was the first part: "Rump." Now he spends his days dodging bullies and toiling away in the mines, digging for enough specks of gold to scrape by and appease the greedy miller and the king. Then Rump uses his mother's old spindle and makes a magical discovery: He can spin straw into gold! Unfortunately, magic can have terrible consequences, and Rump is quickly in over his head. Now Rump must cope with pixies, trolls, and fairy tale villains on his journey to discover his true name and gain control over the magic that binds him.
First Line: "My mother named me after a cow's rear end."
Rumplestiltskin has been one of my favorite fairy tales ever since I saw the 1987 film adaptation starring Amy Irving and Billy Barty. Despite his creepiness and unmitigated selfishness, I was curious about Rumplestiltskin's motives and background. I wanted to know more. Though I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Once Upon a Time, the character of Rumple—as portrayed by the supremely talented Robert Carlyle—has succeeded in making the story of Rumplestilkskin even more intriguing to me. Somehow, this adaptation by Liesl Shrutliff creates an alternate version that includes all the key elements of the original but turns the story inside out, making Rumplestiltskin the hero.
Suffice it to say that I enjoyed this novel immensely. Rump's story is set in an unnamed kingdom, a well-developed world where fairy tales intersect just the teeniest bit. Clear, energetic writing and a cheeky narrative voice help create a story to capture the interest of even the most reluctant readers. The writing is full of silly humor (fart jokes even!) and adventure, yet there is substance here as well. Rump's quest for self-confidence and hope in an unfair world is truly touching. It also addresses—and presents possible answers to—a lot of the questions I've had from previous versions, such as why Rump's true name is so important. Although the action wanes from time to time into predictability, this is an appealing fantasy filled with laughter, cleverness, and magic.