THE RUMPELSTILTSKIN PROBLEM by Vivian Vande Velde

THE RUMPELSTILTSKIN PROBLEM

Age Range: 10 - 14
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Of making many books there is no end, and of making many fairy tales with alternate settings, characters, or perspectives there clearly is no end in sight. Vande Velde (Magic Can Be Murder, p. 1366, etc.) extends this popular subgenre into the upper-elementary through junior-high level, with her collection of six short stories on a Rumpelstiltskin theme. She begins in an introduction by examining the logical fallacies inherent in the traditional versions of “Rumpelstiltskin,” detailed in a slightly sarcastic style that will appeal to junior-high students. Each of her short stories then addresses one of these problems in various clever ways. The first three stories deal with the motivation of the Rumpelstiltskin character. In the first, Rumpelstiltskin is a mean troll who wants to eat a baby for lunch; in the second, he is a helpful, gentle elf who eventually rescues the miller’s daughter and her baby from an uncaring king; and in the third, Rumplestiltskin is a domovoi, a furry Russian creature who lives under the floorboards of the castle, simply trying to keep all the humans happy. The following three stories have human characters taking on the role of Rumpelstiltskin within the story structure. The father solves the gold-spinning problem himself in one story, and the exemplary king rids himself of a greedy, conniving miller’s daughter in another. In Ms. Rumpelstiltskin, the main character is a neighbor of the miller and his daughter, an unpleasant witch-like woman who wants a daughter of her own to raise (in a locked tower, as it turns out). Although the stories are rather a bit much to read all at once, separately they are both clever innovations on the traditional tale and useful instructionally in analyzing motivation and character. Teachers who use fairy tales in the classroom will find this an effective and amusing collection, with just the right amount of snappy sarcasm to snag the junior-high set. Young readers who like Robin McKinley’s fairy-tale retellings will also enjoy this collection. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-618-05523-1
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2000




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