Paul O. Zelinsky, 1998 Caldecott medalist for Rapunzel, also has three Caldecott Honor Books under his belt: Hansel and Gretel, Swamp Angel, and this fine edition of Rumpelstiltskin. Zelinsky's oil paintings are perfectly suited to the strange saga of the little man with the secret name who knows how to spin straw into gold. The golden light infusing the late medieval setting subtly reinforces the theme.
The visual characterization of Rumpelstiltskin is a triumph: an odd elfin man with bulbous eyes, a gigantic, flat black hat, impossibly skinny arms and legs, and long, pointed black shoes. This Rumpelstiltskin is not scary or horrid, but rather mischievous and weird. When the young queen finally guesses his name, and thus is able to keep her baby, he flies off on his huge cooking spoon (with a pout), true to the Grimms's 1819 version of the story. (Zelinsky provides notes on his text in the back of the book, indicating his careful research into various editions of the original Grimm tale.) Zelinsky's retelling is straightforward and smooth, with only a few lines of text on each page to complement the truly magnificent full-page illustrations. A delightful book worth its weight in gold! (Ages 3 to 7)