Cover image for Spinners
Napoli, Donna Jo, 1948-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Dutton Children's Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
197 pages ; 22 cm
Elaborates on the events recounted in the fairy tale, "Rumpelstiltskin, " in which a strange little man helps a miller's daughter spin straw into gold for the king on the condition that she will give him her first-born child.
Reading Level:
620 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 4.3 6.0 31871.

Reading Counts RC High School 6.7 7 Quiz: 18791 Guided reading level: NR.
Added Author:
Format :


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Material Type
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Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This gripping novel set in long-ago times explores the mysterious secrets that weave together the lives of a lonely crippled man and an innocent girl. Both are spinners, and each one is able to make extraordinary yarns.T

he girl spins at her wheel because she loves it, and she expresses her artistic nature as well as earns a livelihood for her and her father. The man also lives by what he spins, but he is driven to it by a destructive force. For when he spins on a certain wheel, pumping with his crippled leg, something so darkly magical happens that he can spin gold from straw. He holds this secret in his heart, a heart as twisted with bitterness as his deformed body.

In the way she limned the age-old tales in Zel and The Magic Circle, and re-created their characters in a startlingly new way, Donna Jo Napoli, with Richard Tchen, spins her own story of the heights -- and depths -- to which love can take us. Wholly original in its imagining, this novel is amazing, tantalizing and horrifying all at the same time.

Author Notes

Donna Jo Napoli was born on February 28, 1948. She received a B.A. in mathematics, an M.A. in Italian literature, and a Ph.D. in general and romance linguistics from Harvard University. She has taught on the university level since 1970, is widely published in scholarly journals, and has received numerous grants and fellowships in the area of linguistics.

In the area of linguistics, she has authored five books, co-authored six books, edited one book, and co-edited five books. She is also a published poet and co-editor of four volumes of poetry. Her first middle grade novel, Soccer Shock, was published in 1991. Her other novels include the Zel, Beast, The Wager, Lights on the Nile, Skin, Storm, Hidden, and Dark Shimmer. She is also the author of several picture books including Flamingo Dream, The Wishing Club: A Story About Fractions, Corkscrew Counts: A Story About Multiplication, The Crossing, A Single Pearl, and Hands and Hearts. She has received several awards including the New Jersey Reading Association's M. Jerry Weiss Book Award for The Prince of the Pond and the Golden Kite Award for Stones in Water.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 8^-12. In The Magic Circle (1993) and Zel (1996), Napoli proved her talent for selecting eerie tales and crafting sophisticated stories that probe human weaknesses and provide rational explanations while remaining faithful to the original fairy tale framework. Known ending aside, watching how the tale is unraveled and rewoven is half the fun. Here, Napoli and collaborator Tchen fabricate rich histories for the gifted 15-year-old Saskia and the mysterious spinner Rumpelstiltskin, who rescues her. Saskia believes she is the miller's daughter. Only the spinner knows the truth: he loved and lost her mother, destroying himself as well. When the miller's bragging arouses the king's greed, the spinner appears to save his beloved daughter, never revealing their relationship. After the second trial, still facing death, Saskia offers herself to the spinner when she has nothing more to give him. Repulsed and infuriated, he vows revenge. Both Saskia and the spinner spin to survive but are doomed by their skill and betrayed by those who love them. Questions abound. Who is the real victim? Why doesn't Rumpelstiltskin reveal his identity? And why does the spinner, who only wants love, reject it when it is truly offered? Love, pride, greed, magic, and revenge: what a wonderful read. --Chris Sherman

Publisher's Weekly Review

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 legÄthus 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 ZelÄthis 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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-Napoli has a magic touch with fairy tales, remaking them from the inside out, but in this case the alteration is not quite as successful. Writing here with Tchen, she re-creates the story of Rumpelstiltskin as a tale of the consequences of passionate and thwarted love. A young weaver's foolish boast dooms both himself and his lover, and shadows the future of their unborn child, setting the stage for the events familiar to readers from the original tale. A medieval village setting provides a believable background for Saskia, the couple's daughter, as she struggles to survive through her developing spinning skills. Immediacy is sustained by the use of an unusual third-person, present-tense narrative, with the viewpoint shifting among the main characters. Magic does occur, of course, but it doesn't drive the story. The authors strive to create flesh-and-blood characters and work very hard to establish credible motivations for all of their actions. This is where the seams start to show. The book skillfully weaves folk images into the realm of realism, but there are holes in the plotting.-Ruth S. Vose, San Francisco Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.