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Liesl Shurtliff's spin on the legend of Rumpelstiltskin is a funny, charming debut novel aimed at middle-grade readers.


By Liesl Shurtliff
Random House
272 pp.

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Might as well get the true confessions out of the way up front. I've always loved Rumpelstiltskin – the story, the mystery, the sound of his name, all that gold. It appealed to me as a child and even now as an adult. So I came to Liesl Shurtliff's debut novel with baggage. I approached reading a middle-grade novel based on my favorite Brothers Grimm fairy tale with trepidation. What if it didn't measure up?

I shouldn't have worried. What an unexpected treat Rump is.

The boy Rump, as he's mostly called (for he never knew what his mother, who died in childbirth, intended to name him), is a delight. Hardly the impish, unattractive schemer, he's a totally sympathetic character – self-effacing, funny-as-anything, and sometimes a poet. The butt of jokes and quite small for his age, he lives with his grandmother in a village where life is hard and everyone fights for a scrap of bread. A conniving miller doles out grain while his two bullying sons figure out ways to get the best of Rump. 

Soon Rump is at his wit's end – and we've been made to believe his wit is not his strongest suit. When he finds his mother's spinning wheel, despite warnings from his old Gran and his best friend Red, he decides to see what he can make of it. Will he find the magic that changes his luck? And, even more important to Rump, will he uncover the mystery behind his true name?


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