Yesterday, Myra featured a powerful poem about women’s silence.
Today, I share with you a lighter albeit stronger facet of women, as we continue our bimonthly theme, Girl Power and Women’s Wiles. This is also in keeping with the kidlit community’s celebration of Women’s Month.
When I picked up Diane Stanley’s Rumpelstiltskin’s Daughter from the library, I realized how lovely it would be to talk about powerful women in fairy tales, fractured or otherwise. I bet Myra and Iphigene would agree with me that we simply cannot resist the charm of fractured fairy tales.
Story and pictures by: Diane Stanley
Publisher: Morrow Junior Books (1997)
Reading Level: Ages 5-8
Themes: Greed, kindness, altruism, strong-willed women, practicality
Opening: “Once there was a miller’s daughter who got into a heap of trouble. It was all because her father liked to make up stories and pass them off as truth. Unfortunately, the story he told was that his daughter could spin straw into gold, which, of course, she could not. Even more unfortunately, he told this whopper in the hearing of a palace servant who rushed right off to tell the king…”
Brief Synopsis: The miller’s daughter, whose name was Meredith, was sent to the castle tower after a greedy king heard the story that she could spin straw into gold. All hope was not lost for an odd little gentleman named Rumpelstiltskin showed up and offered to help her. Meredith decided to run off with and marry Rumpelstiltskin instead of the king. They lived a happy country life and were blessed with a daughter. When their daughter was old enough to go around the city, she would trade gold with coins and do a little shopping. Soon the greedy king heard about her and asked his palace guards to send for her immediately. Would she suffer the same fate as her mother?
Why I Like This Book: Diane Stanley creates a charming yet practical spin on a beloved classic by the Brothers Grimm. It takes Rumpelstiltskin to a whole new level by introducing a fourth character in the story: Hope, Rumpelstiltskin’s daughter. Readers will get a double fairy tale treat as they read the stories of Meredith and Hope.
I like Diane Stanley’s take on women’s independent thinking. In the classic fairy tale, the miller’s daughter was portrayed as passive. She married the greedy king and almost lost her firstborn child to Rumpelstiltskin. In Diane Stanley’s version, Meredith realized that she didn’t have to put up with the king, let alone marry him. She chose good ol’ Rumpelstiltskin instead (who was also portrayed differently in this book, for he was no longer the cunning, deceitful little man as in the classic tale). She recognized that she has a choice, and marrying Rumpelstiltskin would not only save herself years of misery but also because it was a practical thing to do.
“Okay, here’s the deal,” he said. “I will spin the straw into gold, just like before. In return, once you become queen, you must let me adopt your firstborn child. I promise I’ll be an excellent father. I know all the lullabies. I’ll read to the child every day. I’ll even coach Little League.”
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Meredith said. “I’d rather marry you… I like your ideas on parenting, you’d make a good provider, and I have a weakness for short men.”
I also like Hope’s story and how she outwitted the king. I won’t say much about her because I don’t want to give away the rest of the story. You would have to grab a copy of this book and discover for yourself. One thing that struck me just now was what Mikey told me last night: The most dangerous thing known to man is a woman. While I don’t agree with the usage of ‘thing’ and ‘woman’ in the same statement, the idea put a smile on my face.
Rumpelstiltskin’s Daugther is my first Diane Stanley book. Gouache, colored pencil, and collage were used in the full-color illustrations. The artworks are comical and made use of bright colors, with gold/golden yellow as the primary color used. I was particularly charmed by her comical reproductions of famous paintings such as Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, Grace Richmond’s The Whistling Mother, and self-portraits of Vincent van Gogh, Niccolo Macchiavelli, and Napoleon Bonaparte, among others.
Rumpelstiltskin’s Daughter is a wonderful addition to my (fractured) fairy tale collection. The story is well-crafted, and the illustrations are vibrant and full of zest. It’s a treat to both kids and adults.
Resources for Teachers and Students:
One of the more popular resource available online is a lesson plan for grade school economics class created by KidsEcon Posters. You may also want to check out sixth grade resources provided by McGraw-Hill. The McGraw-Hill School Education Group divides their resources into those that provide classroom activities for teachers (teacher view) and links for online activities for parents/students (parent/student view). There are also vocabulary and spelling activities from McGraw-Hill, as featured in Oaklyn Grade 6’s website. Lastly, a rather short but also useful activity on being a good citizen is provided by the Children’s Theater, a theatrical group who created the musical for Rumpelstiltskin’s Daughter.
About the Author
(taken from the back flap of the book)
Diane Stanley was born in Abilene, Texas, into a remarkably creative and adventurous family, notable for its strong women. Perhaps that’s why the story of Rumpelstiltskin troubled her as a child. Why would that miller’s daughter marry the king who had been tormenting her all along? Before she could set things right, though, Ms. Stanley worked as a medical illustrator and as an art director for a major publishing house. She became interested in children’s books and began illustrating them when her daughters, Catherine and Tamara, were young. To find out more about her, you may visit her magical website.
1998 Storytelling World Magazine Honor Book Award
2000 South Carolina Children’s Book Award
Winner, Pennsylvania Keystone to Reading Award
AWB Reading Challenge Update: 27 of 35
Picture Book Challenge Update: 41 of 120
*Book borrowed from the Chula Vista Public Library.
*Book photos taken by me.