IN A WORLD... WHERE YOUR NAME DETERMINES YOUR DESTINY... Rump is the butt of everybody's jokes. Rump isn't really his whole name, of course. It's just that his mother didn't live long enough to tell anyone the rest of it. Rump spends his days mining gold and enduring the taunts of his peers, until he discovers his mother's old spinning wheel hidden in the wood pile. This sets his fate (and the basic outline of the Rumpelstiltskin story) in motion. But in order to find his name and unravel his story, Rump is going to have to prove that he's the master of his own destiny.
Fractured fairy tales are an easy sell for me, and this one was an enjoyable read. The gentle scatological humor was a nice addition to the formula, and one that will easily win over its third and fourth grade audience. (And me. I like a good butt joke.) As Kirby Larson notes in her cover blurb, Shurtliff does an impressive job of drumming up sympathy for one of the Grimms' less likeable characters. There are fresh takes on some other fairy tale tropes along the way - the trolls are especially winsome, if also rather pungent.
This is the paragraph where I tell you that it's probably not going to win the Newbery Medal. There are a couple of flaws working against it. The most troubling one, to me, was the ease with which Rump ultimately figures out the rest of his name. It just sort of... dawns on him, and it feels like it only happens because the plot requires it to. Then too, the villains (especially the miller) are extra villainous - real mustache-twirling, belly-patting caricatures. I've read too many morally complex juvenile fantasy novels to be satisfied with that sort of thing.
As a first novel, though, it's impressive, and it will have no problem finding an audience. Hand it to fans of Adam Gidwitz, Lauren Oliver, or even your biggest fart joke enthusiasts.
in April 2013,
by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers (Random House)