A Folktale Retold by Eric Kimmel


Kimmel, Eric A., and Erin Camarca (illustrator). Rattlestiltskin. Portland: WestWinds Press, 2016. ISBN 9781943328383


Rattlestiltskin is a southwestern spin on the original German fairy tale, substituting tortillas “so light, they float like clouds” for straw that spins into gold and Don Ignacio, the richest man in town, for the king. Rosalia is the southwestern substitute for the miller’s daughter, and try as she might, she can’t make tortillas float for Don Ignacio until a rattlesnake-wearing man appears. Rosalia offers to do anything he asks in exchange for his secret to making tortillas float, and the man promptly agrees to her terms. When Don Ignacio tastes Rosalia’s new floating tortillas, he is overjoyed and presents her with a life of luxury. Rosalia is carefree—until the rattlesnake man appears again and demands that she become a maid for him and his brothers. Rosalia can only escape her fate if she guesses his name, and after coming up short two days in a row, she runs away. But before Rosalia gets too far, she spots a shack and overhears the rattlesnake man inside say his name—Rattlestiltskin—allowing her to break free of her promise and continue to live her luxurious lifestyle.


There are several ways in which Rattlestiltskin shines. The oral readability of the story is fantastic, and readers will especially delight in reciting the square dance song that Rattlestiltskin sings. (“Promenade and don’t be slow. What’s my name? I’ll bet you know . . .”) Kimmel’s almost perfect maneuvering of Spanish words and phrases intermingled with English is also commendable and adds authenticity to the southwestern bent of the story. Plus, illustrations add additional insight into the southwest with brightly colored traditional clothing and the rugged desert landscape of the southwestern wilderness.

Unfortunately, there are also several ways in which Rattlestiltskin flops. Unlike the original miller’s daughter, Rosalia’s plight is never so dire or unfair that readers have much of a reason to root for her. On the other hand, readers don’t have much of a reason to root against Rattlestiltskin. After all, he’s only asking Rosalia to keep her end of their agreement and his request isn’t for anything very unreasonable. Asking her to be the maid at his house is mild when compared with the original Rumpelstiltskin’s evil wish to take away a mother’s baby; it’s one that even seems fair after he’s taught Rosalia his amazing secrets. Furthermore, the man mercifully allows Rosalia to try to guess his name again and again. Thus, when the ever-jolly Rattlestiltskin is rattled to pieces, it seems undeserved, and when the final spread of the story shows a frightening picture of an evil-looking Rattlestiltskin hiding in the rocks, it clashes awkwardly with his upbeat nature. In summary, the lack of high stakes and consistency, and a villain more likable than the heroine left the story feeling half-baked and mediocre.


From School Library Journal: “An enjoyable play on an old favorite that will be a sound addition to most picture book collections.”

From Kirkus Reviews: “This adaptation is uneven, fluctuating between clever—the story’s title—and pedestrian—the tale itself.”

From Booklist: “Peppering the book with Spanish vocabulary and phrases, Kimmel adds a multicultural twist through words visually enhanced by first-time illustrator Camarca’s desert landscapes and traditional dress. In spite of noble intentions to add diversity to a well-known story, the result feels a bit awkward, and the art, occasionally almost disturbing.”


Work together to recreate tortillas using the tortilla recipe found in the back of the book or pre-prepare tortillas and eat them together.

Teach the children a simple square dance like the ones found below:

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xXePOakJGs
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFskdWvq0wk&feature=share
  • https://ourpastimes.com/square-dance-kids-6356669.html

Read with other books by Eric Kimmel and ask children to write about which book is their favorite:

  • Kimmel, Eric A., and Trina S. Hyman (illustrator). Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins. ISBN 9780823411313
  • Kimmel, Eric A., and Janet Stevens (illustrator). Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock. ISBN 9780823407989
  • Kimmel, Eric A., and Omar Rayyan (illustrator). Joha Makes a Wish: A Middle Eastern Tale. ISBN 9780761455998

Read with other retellings and versions of Rumpelstiltskin. Then, compare and contrast the retellings together:

  • Zelinsky, Paul O. Rumpelstiltskin. ISBN 9780140558647
  • Stanley, Diane. Rumpelstiltskin’s Daughter. ISBN 9780064410953
  • Hamilton, Virginia, and Leo and Diane Dillon (illustrators). The Girl Who Spun Gold. ISBN 9780590473781

*Note—This book review was created as an assignment for a course at Texas Woman’s University.

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