Liesl Shurtliff, Rump (Whitney finalist, Middle Grade)
As one might suspect from the title, Rump is a retelling of Rumplestiltskin, from the point of view of the title character. In this version, Rump is a twelve-year-old boy who is perpetually a little cold and a little hungry as he and his grandmother scratch a living out of the mines in the mountain. But when Rump discovers an unexpected talent for spinning, his life beings to change, and not necessarily in a good way. Red, the closest thing he has to a friend, warns him that all magic has a cost--and the more powerful the magic, the bigger the cost. And she's right.
In his attempt to figure out his gift and to right some of the mistakes he's made (leading, among other things, to the miller's daughter being taken by the king to spin straw into gold) take him to parts of the kingdom he's never seen before, brings him in close contact with pixies and trolls, and teaches him about his own abilities, his name, and the kind of person he wants to be.
There was a lot to love here: I loved Shurtliff's effortless writing, and Rump's charmingly flawed character. I loved his off-beat sense of humor and his propensity for rhymes. I as also impressed with the way Shurtliff stayed true to the original retelling (down to the promise of the first-born child) and still make Rump likeable. And I liked Shurtliff's exploration of the power of names, something I've long been fascinated with. Overall, I think this is a delightful middle grade book--one most young readers would find fun, relatable, and funny to boot.
*I'm also predisposed to like this because the author is one of my sister's critique partners (it was fun to see her name in print, even if only in the acknowledgements!)