cover image Spinners


Donna Jo Napoli, Richard Tchen. Dutton Books, $15.99 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-525-46065-7

Napoli and Tchen spin fairy tale into something less than gold in this attenuated retelling of ""Rumpelstiltskin."" The villain of that tale, the odd little man who helps the miller's daughter but demands her first-born child, is first seen here as an unnamed lovestruck youth, a tailor. His beloved is carrying his child, but her father, ignorant of his daughter's pregnancy, doubts that the tailor can support her and wants her to marry the wealthy miller. To impress his would-be father-in-law, the tailor promises that he will clothe his bride in gold; to this end, he steals an elderly woman's spinning wheel and ends up obsessed, turning straw into gold but somehow ""rumpling"" his leg--thus earning his lover's disdain and the hated sobriquet Rumpelstiltskin. The narrative then fast-forwards and shifts to Saskia, the miller's daughter (really Rumpelstiltskin's child), whose mother has died in childbirth. After a series of hardships, Saskia becomes renowned for the marvelous yarns she can spin. Girls will enjoy many of the details here, like the yarns Saskia designs out of violets and fruit fibers, but the novel will disappoint anyone expecting Napoli to do here what she did for Hansel and Gretel in The Magic Circle and for Rapunzel in Zel--this is all back story. While there are intriguing subplots, many are simply dropped, and the characters' motivations implausibly swerve at pivotal moments. In the end, this version fails to offer new insights or perspectives on its famous subject. Ages 12-up. (Aug.)