Why did the miller tell the king his daughter could spin straw into gold in the first place? The story of Rumpelstiltskin is full of holes, says young adult fantasy writer Vivian Vande Velde in the author's note to this delightful group of tales. For instance, why was the dwarf was willing to accept the girl's ring as a bribe when he already knew how to spin unlimited quantities of gold? And why did he want a baby at all? Not to mention the very peculiar ending in which he stamps on the floor, catches his foot in a crack, and in a fit of rage tears himself in two. Excuse me? says Vande Velde.
The skeptical author sets out to remedy these flaws in six different imaginative retellings full of sassy humor that teens will relish. Sticking closely to the spirit and setting of the original, she changes only one or two building blocks in the plot structure and comes up with some surprising results. In one story, the miller's daughter is an obnoxious groupie pursuing the polite and gentle king; in another, Rumpelstiltskin is female; and in a third, the dwarf appears as a troll with a yen to eat human baby who sets up the whole scenario as an attempt to get his hands on a toothsome infant. ("Tastes just like chicken," scoffs his brother-in-law.)
Teen readers will appreciate the wit and freshness of these smart-mouth renditions of a traditional story. (Ages 10 to 14) --Patty Campbell