Reviews for Rumpelstiltskin Problem


Horn Book Guide Reviews 2001 Spring
In a novel approach, Vande Velde retells this tale not once, but six times, inspired, she says, by questions begged by the original tale (""you'd think that in reality [the miller] would have noticed that his daughter doesn't actually know how to spin straw into gold""). The stories, for the most part amusing, drip with sarcasm; the humor is occasionally thin and more bitter than funny. Copyright 2001 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 2000 October #1
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 isa 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 livesunder 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) Copyright 2000 Kirkus Reviews

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2000 October #1
The eponymous problem, as Vande Velde (There's a Dead Person Following My Sister Around) explains in an author's note, is that the original fairy tale "makes no sense." Hence, she retells the classic story six times, creatively changing elements with each variant. What results is a charming and clever collection that explains such conundrums as: Why, if the daughter can spin straw into gold, is the miller so poor? What would an elf want with a baby? Vande Velde keeps the basic structure the same: always a miller's daughter must spin straw into gold for the king, always the claim is made that Rumpelstiltskin does it for her or at least teaches her in exchange for her firstborn and ultimately someone must guess the creature's strange name to break that contract. In one scenario, "The Domovoi," Rumpelstiltskin is a magical, teddy bear-like creature living under the castle basement; in "Ms. Rumpelstiltskin," the titular character takes the form of an ugly and lonely witch. The miller's daughter may fall in love with the king, or with Rumpelstiltskin, and once she runs off without falling in love at all. In the closing, particularly funny version, the miller's manipulative daughter named Carleen tries to bully kindly King Gregory into marrying her. Though the opening lines feel forced (one begins, "Once upon a time, before pizzerias or Taco Bells"), Vande Velde's takes on this fairy tale are always humorous and often heartwarming. Ages 10-14. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2000 November
Gr 4-6-The problem is, as Vande Velde explains in her introductory note, that the story of Rumpelstiltskin just doesn't make sense. What kind of king would believe that the miller's daughter could spin straw into gold and still be as poor as she appeared? What kind of girl would want to marry a king who had just threatened to behead her? The author considers these inconsistencies and more and offers six new versions of the story that present other possibilities and other viewpoints. In one, a taste for human baby flesh motivates Rumpelstiltskin's bargain; in another, he is a tall and handsome elf who brings gold from his parallel world. These short variations on the story have a sly humor and a contemporary feeling, even within the fairy-tale setting, but ultimately require the same willing suspension of disbelief as the original. This is an interesting experiment that will appeal most to fairy-tale fans who just can't get enough of the traditional genre.-Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2000 December
Doubting the credibility of the original Rumpelstiltskin tale, Vande Velde asks, "If [the miller's] daughter can spin straw into gold, why [was the miller] poor?" Such a quandary makes no sense to her. By way of explanation, she likens oraltradition to the children's game Gossip ("telephone" in the old days), which often yields nonsensical results. Seeking answers, the author devised this entertaining collection of six "alternative*" (as the author spells it) Rumpelstiltskin tales,each of which remains true to the basic story line. Enchanted by the author's caustic introduction, this reviewer had high hopes. The first offering, A Fairy Tale in Bad Taste, and the last, As Good as Gold, will tickle the reader's fancy, but othersfall short of the mark although each tale is cleverly devised. Perhaps sampling versions in isolation would allow the reader a greater appreciation of each. This collection should be a hit in grades six and seven. An ideal catalyst for student writing, one can envision multiple scenarios. Used with small groups, each student might read and report on one story. Students could examine the common elementsbetween versions, then write their own variation of a fairy tale. They might experiment with the oral tradition by playing Gossip with their own tales, or they could share their versions with younger audiences. The skeptical author's note is idealfor older students exploring authorial voice or satire. Public schools or libraries that use fairy tales in their curriculum or programming should add this title.-Cynthia L. Blinn. Copyright 2000 Voya Reviews

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