I flock to fairy tale retellings like greedy men flock to rumors of girls who can spin straw into gold. There's just something delightful about these postmodern retellings that take the villain of the original and look into their back story, flipping everything on its head. Rump is a fairy tale that does just that, along with plenty of humor that middle grade audiences are sure to enjoy.
Shurtliff does a great job with the retelling aspect of Rump. She remains faithful to all the main elements of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale: the girl charged to turn straw into gold, the little man (or in this case boy) who comes to do it for her for a price, the name-guessing contest, and the foot stomp when she manages to guess his name. Of course, everything's got a different slant on it, and the way she weaves all of that together is brilliant. What makes Rump especially neat is the way that Shurtliff threw in clever references to all sorts of other fairy tales. For example, Rump's best friend is Red (who is totally the best) and he finds trees grown from the apple that put Snow White to sleep.
Rump doesn't know his whole name. His mother died in the midst of naming him, and all anyone could make out was Rump. All his life he's been the butt of jokes. No one takes a kid named Rump seriously, especially when he's shrimpy, barely passing for 8 even though he's 12. Plus, names are really important in their kingdom, so he just feels lost. When his Gran dies, Rump has no choice but to find a way to support himself, which happens to involve his mom's spindle which Gran told him not to mess with. Turns out that Rump can spin straw into gold, which is a pretty nifty talent and should set him up for life. Unfortunately, the miller doesn't pay him more than enough to subsist, no matter how much gold Rump spins.
Humor abounds in Rump, particularly of a sort that younger readers will appreciate. Though a bit young for me, I admire what Shurtliff did for her intended audience. Of course, there are jokes about Rump's name, but there are also lots of silly rhymes and trolls who like everything dirty. No doubt kids will be in stitches most of the time.
What Left Me Wanting More:
In general, I enjoyed the characters, but thought a lot of the characterization stayed on a very surface level. I especially would have liked to see more done with Opal, who remains an airheaded damsel-in-distress the whole time. Sure, turning Rumpelstiltskin into the hero requires some alteration, but I thought that portrayal was needlessly cruel.
The Final Verdict:
Rump is sure to be a success with younger readers. It's a light, fun fairy tale retelling, which makes the reader reevaluate everything that happened in the original tale.