Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff
Summary (Courtesy of Goodreads): In a magical kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone's joke. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. Rump discovers he has a gift for spinning straw into gold. His best friend, Red Riding Hood, warns him that magic is dangerous, and she’s right. With each thread he spins, he weaves himself deeper into a curse. To break the spell, Rump must go on a perilous quest, fighting off pixies, trolls, poison apples, and a wickedly foolish queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—he just might triumph in the end.
So before starting my review, I must confess that I might be a bit biased on this one because I happen to know the author personally. Liesl is one of the dear friends we left behind in Chicago, and she is just one of those deep, thoughtful, sweet, lovely people with interesting ideas pouring out of her, so when I heard she was a published author with her first book coming out last April, I thought, "Well, that just makes sense." And of course I also thought, "How cool! I know a published author! And I own a signed copy of her book!" It's little things like that that just get me all star struck excited. So anyway, I will try to be as unbiased as possible.
First off, I love me a good fairy tale retelling (Ella Enchanted, all time favorite), but it often feels like the same fairy tales get rehashed over and over again, so it was completely refreshing to see this one was about Rumpelstiltskin, a lesser known but still fantastic fairy tale. And telling it from Rump's point of view was sheer genius (akin to the "True Story of the Three Little Pigs" told from the innocent wolf's point of view). I mean, how many male protagonists do you see in fairy tales? Especially of the non-prince variety?
Second, I thought Liesl nailed the middle-grade genre. The language is simple, descriptions are not overly-flowery, but the world is still rich with imaginative detail and the little moral messages (ideas about why some people are mean to others, what it's like to be different, and finding inner strength) are powerfully expressed. And it was funny! Of course, there are lots of jokes to be made when the main character's name is "Rump," but it was nice to see the protagonist himself poke fun at his own name. Beyond "rump" jokes, the humor in the rest of the book is subtle and clever. Also, I loved the little rhymes sprinkled throughout the story. All in all, this was a simply delightful little read.
I recommend this one in full to any middle-grade readers out there (especially the boys), their parents, or anyone who loves a good fairy-tale retelling.