Blue Country Magic review by Anita Firebaugh
Ferradiddledumday: An Appalachian Version of RumpelstiltskinBy Becky Mushko
Greenberry House review by Leslie Shelor
Becky Mushko is my favorite local writer. Several years ago I reviewed some of her earlier books for another project, and I've been keeping up with her through her blog. She is witty and clever and has a lively sense of humor. Many of her books are historical in nature and read like fictional biographies of people in our area. Becky captures the sense of place that runs deep in the hearts of mountain people.
Ferradiddledumday is my favorite of her books so far. An Appalachian retelling of the fairy tale favorite Rumplestiltskin, Ferrradiddledumday is set in the Blue Ridge Mountains, on a subsistence farm sometime in the past. Gillie, the young heroine, must come up with a way to help her father save the farm. When she's approached by a magical little stranger, she agrees to his terms when he says he can help her because she just can't imagine ever leaving her beautiful Blue Ridge Mountain home.
Becky makes capturing the flavor and ancient magic of the Blue Ridge seem easy in her flowing prose. Walking in the woods in these old mountains on a silent summer day, it's easy to imagine that a fairy might lurk in the deep shadows of a laurel thicket, or something unknown might be watching from a tumble of rocks. Ferrradiddledumday's descriptions portray those feelings and set the scene for a magic tale that is timeless. Although this is an original book, the style is very much in the tradition of mountain storytelling such as The Jack Tales. There are few things more important to mountain people than a sense of story.
I also loved the illustrations by Bruce Rae. They are beautiful and convey the sense of the story and the mountains. I was particularly charmed by the illustrations that include the spinning wheel that Gillie uses. It is a Great Wheel, sometimes called a wool wheel, with a spindle (if Becky ever does Sleeping Beauty this is the wheel she would use) rather than a flyer. This would have been the wheel used in this area at a certain point in time for spinning wool, and the fact that it is shown outdoors or in an outbuilding while used is also correct. Mountain houses were small back in the day, with little room for a large spinning wheel. In many cases an entire room of the house could be dedicated to the wheel or loom. While some people used a flax wheel for spinning wool, it makes sense that Gillie would have had a Great Wheel.
I love this book and hope to entice the author to allow me to sell it here at my shop.
The Virginia Scribe review (reposted on Jacketflap) by Amy Tate
Yesterday I received my advance reader copy for Ferradiddledumday, An Appalachian Version of Rumpelstiltskin, by Becky Mushko. Even though this is her book, my hands shook when I opened it. For the past two years I've watched her labor over this and it is such a joy to see it come to fruition! It truly is a work of art. The book is categorized under juvenile fiction, but the format makes it suitable for all ages. I really like the layout. The illustrations capture my Kindergartner's attention, and yet the reading level is suitable for my ten-year-old. I love books that are versatile for family reading, and those are hard to come by. The illustrations are phenomenal. Small details such as walking sticks, bare feet, and fiddles pop off the page. To say that Bruce Rae is talented is an understatement, he's more like a magician. He beautifully captures life in the Appalachians, and his art harmonizes with Becky's words. I've read other illustrated juvenile books where the text competes with the illustrations, butFerradiddledumday is perfectly balanced. The reader is instantly swept into Gillie's world from the beginning with words like,
Indeed, when she took her sheep down the rocky and wooded mountainside to the bottomland pasture, the ticks and chiggers never bit her, the copperheads and rattlesnakes kept themselves hid, and the wild panthers that lurked on the mountain gave her a wide berth. The sun never shone on her too hard and the rain rarely wet her.
Educators will love the fact that the book includes a discussion/study guide. It's divided into four sections, including literature, geography, science and history. The questions are thorough, and thought provoking. Yet the story is so captivating that children will be mesmerized by its poetic tale.
I love works that respect the oral story-telling tradition. They are few and far between. So when my friend Becky Mushkoasked me to read her advance reader copy ofFerradiddledumday, I couldn't wait. This is an Appalachian retelling of the Russian folktale, Rumplestiltskin. Full of local plants, Appalachian names, and a real feeling for life in a mountain holler,Ferradiddledumday begs you to read it aloud. I read it first as printed matter, then retired to the basement and read it as it was meant to be read: out loud to a collection of very impressed stuffed animals.
Becky received a terrific cover blurb from Sharyn McCrumb, New York Times Best Selling Author and another Appalachian writer, who said, "Becky Mushko's retelling of the European folk tale Rumpelstiltskin brings a new world perspective to the old story, illuminating the frontier setting with a wealth of detail: plant names, folk traditions, and regional dialect. If the story had happened here, it would have happened like this."
High praise, and well deserved.
The first time I read a draft of Becky Mushko's Ferradiddledumday was three or four years ago. Immediately I liked her Appalachian version ofRumpelstiltskin and thought it should be published. Then Bruce Rae created the delightful illustrations, making the book even more inviting. When Cedar Creek Publishing wanted to publish it, I was ecstatic. If I told you that I clapped and clapped, and then clapped some more, you wouldn't believe me. But I really did. Honest.
This past Thanksgiving Day, I sat on our sunny deck with several of my grandchildren and started reading aloud Becky Mushko's advance reading copy of Ferradiddledumday, An Appalachian Version of Rumpelstiltskin.The children were hooked as soon as I read the catchy title and showed them the cover. Each time I turned a page they insisted I show them the illustrations by Bruce Rae.
"Look!" one granddaughter said as she pointed to page eight. "This page has a rattlesnake AND a copperhead!"
I nodded and smiled. I, too, liked Bruce's illustrations.
Even though I had read Ferradiddledumday in it's infancy, I read slowly, savoring again the delightful superstitions of Appalachia, enjoying the Appalachian dialect woven throughout the pages. From page 15:
"Ay, well," said her pa when the skies cleared and they could go outside, "the garden weren't hurt too bad. The cornstalks ain't been flatted and the bean vines ain't tore up."
Can't you just feel it, see it? Mushko is a true story teller, and this latest book is honest Appalachian literature. And to top it off, there's a study and discussion guide that draws me in, makes me want to follow it. More importantly, it will appeal to kids, get them interested in researchingRumpelstiltskin, Appalachia, leprechauns. They will learn that research can be fun.
Because I was reading slowly and taking time to show everyone the illustrations, my kitchen buzzer went off before I could finish the book.
"Don't stop now, Grandmother!" one said. "We want to hear the rest!"
But the turkey and sweet potatoes called, and suspecting that 21 folks didn't want to wait much longer before chowing down, I hurried to the kitchen, knowing I'd disappointed my grandchildren. And I smiled, knowing how excited they would be when they received their very own copy ofFerradiddledumday when the book comes out in January 2010. You, dear reader, should buy it, too.