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)
From Publishers Weekly
One of the most exquisite picture books of the season, Zelinsky's Rumplestiltskin will have strong appeal for children and for adult picture-book collectors alike. The artist has illustrated numerous award-winners, including Hansel and Gretel (a Caldecott Honor Book) and The Story of Mrs. Lovewright and Purrless Her Cat (a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year). Here Zelinsky has retold the narrative himself; he has captured the magic and frightening wonder of the tale while incorporating elements from a number of 19th century Grimm versions. The spare story flows beautifully, and the illustrations are extraordinary. Incredibly detailed full-color paintings show the influence of careful study of styles and techniques of European portrait and landscape painters. In Hansel and Gretel, the tale's dark side was communicated principally through Zelinsky's depiction of a powerful and frightening background. But here the interior scenesheaps and heaps of straw, and baskets of empty spindles, with rooms suddenly full of golden threadcarry the story. The little man Rumplestiltskin is by turns mysterious, comforting, devious, furious and pathetic. And Zelinsky shows dramatically the love that the miller's daughter has for her child, and the terror she feels when she realizes she may have to give him up. Rumplestiltskin is a tour de force by an immensely talented artist. Zelinsky is that rare practitioner who can create sophisticated work that adults will marvel at, and that children will joyfully embrace.
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