This will be a compendium post, with thoughts on some of your recent posts.

First, Rumpelstiltskin. You make some good points. It is certainly true that both the king and the miller are the ones who really demonstrate the greed, not necessarily the miller’s daughter. But I’m not entirely convinced that she was the heroine you make her out to be, either. She was pretty passive in the entire affair, unlike many other Grimm heroines.

“The girl knew not how to help herself.” That’s what makes her unappealing, I think. Look at the Goose Girl, and Gretel, and the girl in the Six Swans, and so many others: they don’t accept their lot and sit there crying; they do something about their situation. The miller’s daughter could have figured out how to use the straw to make a rope and escape! Or made some other kind of deal with Rumpelstiltskin to get her out of there. And once she did make the bargain with him for her child, she promptly forgot about it. (I suspect that’s why Gruber refers to her as an “airhead.”)

It’s true that at this point, she finally gets some gumption. She tries to figure out names, and she sends out the messenger to look for more names. But again, she’s pretty passive about the whole thing. No Plan B? No attempt to have Rumpelstiltskin captured or followed? Not to mention the general passivity of just marrying the king and having the baby.

“Luck” I would agree with. “Pluck” not so much.

Next, regarding your series on What Should’ve Won. I think this is an interesting exercise for several reasons. The one thing that really stands out to me is the question of the books that stand the test of time–even of the relatively short time period that the Printz Award has been in existence. Certainly this is true of Speak, and equally, I think of Feed. I did think that Postcards from No Man’s Land was an excellent book, and as you mentioned, I was deeply impressed by America that year, but Feed, it seems to me, has already become a classic, which isn’t true of the others. In the comments, Beth mentioned its iconic cover art, and Emily said, “I think it’s the one that keeps on mattering.” They’re both right on.

Staying power is, in my opinion, one aspect of literary excellence, but it is probably the hardest one to judge in the moment. It’s certainly the thing we all talk about when second-guessing the award juries, whether it’s Printz, Newbery, or Oscar. (“Can you believe Secret of the Andes beat out Charlotte’s Web?” “Seriously? ‘How Green Was My Valley’ over ‘Citizen Kane’? ‘Forrest Gump’ over ‘Pulp Fiction’?”)

It’s also true that some books get dated sooner than others. In fact, Feed is an interesting case study, because SF does have a tendency to become overtaken by reality. I can’t help thinking of Feed every time I read about Google Glass or some new app that keeps track of your movements and suggests a different route or a new restaurant to try.

Anyway, I’m finding it quite fascinating to read these posts of yours, because they bring up books that I had forgotten, or that were underrated at the time. If I still worked in a library, I would probably do some circulation stats to find out how well some of these books are still doing.

Needless to say, I’m also feeling just a tad wary, since the next Printz year you’ll be tackling is the one I served on!

– Mom





1 Comment

Filed under Awards, Books, Teens

One response to “Responses

  1. Eric Carpenter

    Have you read Gary Schmidt’s STRAW INTO GOLD? He basically removes the miller’s daughter from his retelling of Rumpelstiltskin.

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