Saturday, June 28, 2014

5 Picks for Exploring Rumpelstiltskin

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Last night, as I was collecting another laundry basketful of books that were due at the library, I found myself smiling at how one free program can inspire hours and hours of fun and learning.

Yes, Dreamtale Puppets and our local library did it again!  

This time, not with a gentle study of Jack and the Beanstalk, but with Rumpelstiltskin.

Now, I admit, Rumpelstiltskin is not my favorite fairytale.  For, in it, a girl promises her first born child to strange little man who does magic in order to save her life and, then, the girl marries the very man who had threatened to kill her -- a greedy king.  Indeed, the story seems filled with more vice than virtue.  

However, it is a "classic" and, thus, invites some exploration.

Explore we did.

First with an introduction to the plot through one picture book.

Then through viewing Dreamtale Puppets creative tabletop retelling of the story...

...and enjoying a post-performance opportunity to get up close and personal with all the puppets.

And, finally, through reading other versions of the story and coming up with our own dramatic play retellings.

The five picture books we chose to explore the story were:

Duffy and the Devil takes a popular play from 19th century Cornwall, which was inspired by the classic tale of Rumpelstiltskin, and puts it into picture book form with fun pen and wash illustrations and an ending that one does not expect (and that made my children laugh!)  True to the time period when this version of tale was dramatized throughout England, the Rumpelstiltskin-like character is portrayed as a devil and there are witches in the story as well.  However, there is very little that is scary about the book since the illustrations are so light-hearted.  I'd say the book is worth a gander for its unique twist if nothing else.

Gorgeous oil paintings in a medieval setting create a feast for children's (and adults' ) eyes in the Caldecott Honor Book Rumpelstiltskin.  The text of the books is well-written and stays true to the 1819 Grimm's version of this classic tale by having Rumpelstiltskin fly off on a wooden spoon at the end.  It was my favorite version of the book to read to my children.

Rumpelstiltskin: The Graphic Novel was Luke's favorite version of the classic tale, becausse it is written in comic-book style with bright, captivating (if trendy) illustrations and plenty of speech bubbles.  

I, personally, found the book less thrilling than he did.  However, I did appreciate the fact that the author tried to smooth out some of the less virtue-filled characteristics of the girl and the king in his retelling.  For, in this version of the classic tale, the girl promises to pay Rumpelstiltskin's price should she ever become queen, but does not know that price is her first-born, and the king keeps Rumpelstiltskin in his palace not due to greed, but due to love.  Plus, the girl shows determination and cleverness as she discovers Rumpelstiltskin's name in order to save her firstborn - a daughter.  The book also contains a glossary, a brief history of the classic tale, discussion questions and writing prompts, making it a good one for academic settings -- but only ones with children who do not frighten easily.  For, to be honest, the character of Rumpelstiltskin in this version is drawn to be quite ominous.

Rumpelstiltskin's Daughter gives a new, happily-ever-after twist to the old Rumpelstiltskin tale.  In it, the girl and the little odd man named Rumpelstiltskin escape the greedy king, get married and have a daughter, only to have the king capture their daughter years later, requiring her to appease his greedy ways.  The daughter, in turn, devises waya to help the poor people living in the king's countryside while also helping the king overcome his greed.  Of course, everyone (except maybe the king's guards with their gnashing teeth who are dismissed near the end of the story) lives happily ever after.

The illustrations in this version are delightful.  The storyline is fresh.  Overall, the plot redeems the vice-ridden classic tale with a strong, virtuou female character and good winning overcoming evil in the king.  I just wish there were not slang phrases in the text, such as "here's the deal" and "that jerk".

The Story of Rumpelstiltskin (Usborne First Stories):  This quick-and-easy book is a basic retelling of the classic tale with simple text and charming illustrations.  Like many other Usborne early readers, each page of The Story of Rumpelstiltskin has a short, large-font line of text at the top of the page, which young readers can likely attack on their own.  Then, it has a large, engaging illustration with two lines of smaller- (but still large-) font text below it.  These final two lines are slightly more challenging to read and can be read by a parent (or by a child who is progressing a bit more with reading).  The book is a quick and easy read with a cute, non-menacing looking Rumpelstiltskin.

Now, I know there are many, many more Rumpelstiltskin-inspired picture books out there. My children and I just moved onto different topics and themes before diving into them.  I'd love to hear about your favorites though in case we revisit this classic tale in the future.

What versions of Rumpelstiltskin do you like the best?  How do you approach classic tales with less-than-redeeming plots? 


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