Rump by Liesl ShurtliffRump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff

This is the story of Rump, a boy whose mother died after his birth. She was only able to announce the first half of his name, so no one knows what Rump’s full name is. All the kids make fun of him and call him Butt. And the town believes that your name is linked to your destiny. The miller’s sons are especially cruel.

One day, Rump learns that his mother used to spin on the spinning wheel. He finds one in the house one day, and against his grandmother’s wishes, he teaches himself to spin. His spinning turns out gold. His grandmother is very ill and their family is poor. The people of the mountain town mine all day and trade the gold they find for food rations from the miller (who does this job for the king). The miller is greedy and keeps the gold and hardly gives out food. The miller’s sons spotted Rump spinning gold and now the miller won’t give Rump any food unless he gives his spun gold to the miller. As part of the spell he doesn’t know he’s under yet, Rump cannot refuse any trade. This starts the wheels spinning for his biggest problems.

The king gets suspicious and comes to the town. The miller says his daughter spun the gold. The king locks up the miller’s daughter, and Rump feels so bad he tries to save her. But people aren’t as nice as Rump is trusting, and everything goes haywire. Every kind-hearted intention that is behind Rump’s actions actually ends up getting him in more trouble. He is a very sympathetic character, but watching him dig himself hole after hole will make readers cringe.

The pacing feels magical, everything unrolls slowly like an epic, yet the curse keeps the suspense and storyline moving. Each character has a different cadence, vocabulary, and syntax. (Like the whir, whir, whir repetition in the book for the spinning wheel.) The land is full of creatures like pixies and goblins, etc. They all have a part to play in a place where everyone’s name is their destiny and Rump doesn’t even know what his useless name is yet.

Read-alikes: Grounded by Megan Morrison, Ella Enchanted by Gail Levine (more character-driven), In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz (more gruesome), The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley (fairytale mysteries)