Reviews of children's and young adult books old and new

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fairy Tales at their Prettiest

Rumpelstiltskin Retold & Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky

We all know the story, a beautiful young woman, the daughter of a miller, is asked by the king to spin a room full of straw into gold. She starts to cry because she does not know how and a little man appears and asks her why she is crying. The little man says he can spin straw into gold for a price and the young woman agrees to his terms. For three nights the little man spins straw into gold for the young woman, on the last night she promises him her first born child. The king overjoyed with the young woman marries her and a year later they have a son. The little man comes back demanding the child and the young woman pleads with him to let her keep her son. The little man says that if she can guess his name in the next three days, she can keep her child. The first two nights the young queen fails and so she sends a trusted servant to follow the little man. The servant does learn the name and returns to the queen with the good news. The young queen tells Rumpelstiltskin his name and he files out of the room in a rage. The young queen is able to keep her child and the little man is never seen or heard from again.

This version is based off of some of the Grimm's Brothers early versions. That must have been what I was read as a child because this is the version I know best. Zelinsky's illustrations are amazing. They are oil paintings that have a rich feel and take you to the middle ages/renaissance immediately. Filled with deep colors and great attention to detail this is a beautifully illustrated book. (Which explains why it won the Caldecott.) It makes for a very pretty book, and gives this fairy tale an extra boost of wonder. For me this is what I think all fairy tales look like, rich color, handsome princes, beautiful maidens, and a castle. Very old school I know, but that far away land and time is always what I think of when I hear the word 'fairy tale.' The retelling is good as well and the word to picture ratio is perfect for children ages 3-6. If you have a young reader at home who likes fairy tales this book is a must read. At the end of the book Zelinsky has some notes about the original story that I appreciated reading, although I am not sure if your young reader would find them as fascinating. However, it is still nice to have some background about how we came to have this story today. I would recommend for children ages 2-6.

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