Reviews of Ferradiddledumday

 Blue Country Magic review by Anita Firebaugh

Ferradiddledumday: An Appalachian Version of Rumpelstiltskin

By Becky Mushko
Illustrated by Bruce Rae
56 pages
32 illustrations

Ferradiddledumday, by my friend and fellow member of the Roanoke Valley Branch of the National Federation of American Pen Women (and a blogger, too!), has written an enchanting folklore read. Parents, teachers and the youngsters who get a hold of this will be delighted.

I was taken by the language, which rang so true that I thought the folks in the book could have been my own grandparents. In just a few short pages, Mushko deftly has explained what life was like in the Blue Ridge Mountains for hundreds of years.

Filled with lovely and lively details and words like redbuds, pipsissewa and maidenhair ferns, this book teaches with ease. Readers, even adults, will learn without having the slightest notion that they've been taught something new.

They may even go to the dictionary in order to figure out what "skedaddled" and other colloquial words mean. If so, then good for them and good for the author for making an educational book educate.

A handy and thorough study and discussion guide in the back makes it clear that this book offers up many good lessons. It is a worthy addition to the piece.

The illustrations by Bruce Rae add to the charm and unique feel of this charming book. Fairy tales have a great purpose and Mushko has handily taken this familiar tale and made it her own.

The author and the illustrator both should be proud of this wonderful work. I give it the highest rating I can give it.


 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 RumplestiltskinFerrradiddledumday 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.  


Slushbusters review


Ferradiddledumday: An Appalachian Version of Rumpelstiltskin by Becky Mushko, copyright 2010, folklore, ISBN 978-0-9842449-1-1

Becky Mushko’s Ferradiddledumday is a delightful variation of the Grimm’s fairy tale of a young girl spinning straw into gold. Becky has taken this European story and given it an authentic Appalachian flavor.

Throughout her story one learns about the plants and animals common to the Appalachian Mountain ecosystem, as well as the farming practices and culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains of the 19th century.

Unlike the original version where the father’s boasting puts the young girl’s life in jeopardy, here the economic struggles common to this era and place threaten the family homestead. Like the Grimm’s version, the young daughter must give her first born to the leprechaun-like creature unless she can solve the mystery of his name.

The illustrations by Bruce Rae are as rough-hewn as the hard scrabble life of the Appalachian people.

Becky includes a study and discussion guide for teachers who are studying folk tales. This guide covers multiple disciplines: literature, geography, history and science.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this tale because of its authenticity to the life and times of Appalachia. Also there are sufficient differences between this and the Grimm’s version that makes it an interesting read.

The author provided a copy of the book for this review.


The Virginia Scribe review (reposted with pictures 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, but Ferradiddledumday 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.

Scribblings and Such review by Sheri L. Wright

Ferradiddledumday: I bet that name caught your attention, though it may have tied your toungue into a Gordian knot. And yes, it is a name, an Appalachian home-spun twist on Rumplestiltskin, conjured up by author and Push-Cart Prize nominee, Becky Mushko. Her new book, titled of course, Ferradiddledumday, has been well-received throughout the Appalachia/Blue Ridge region for weaving new threads into a favorite story, threads of mountain heritage rooted in Old Country traditions of magic and fey, the dangers of pacts made without understanding consequences, the desperation that drives us to them and the importance of kin to help us through.

Mushko's fresh version is a page-turner for both young and old, filled with the imagery of mountain life and land, illustrations hued with care blended into the ink.

And as a treat, she includes a study and discussion guide at the end of the book, delving into its origins and history.

If you have children, you will want to read this wonderful story to them. But, don't be suprised if they snatch the book out of your hands and read it themselves. Better yet, contact the author to come visit your school group if you live within 200 miles of Franklin County, Virginia at

 Betsy Ashton blog review by Betsy Ashton

I love works that respect the oral story-telling tradition. They are few and far between. So when my friend Becky Mushko asked 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. 

 Smith Mountain Lake Mystery Writer review by Sally Roseveare

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. 

 Tales from the Tapestry review by Linda Goodman

Becky Mushko wrote Ferradiddledumday in 1997 to showcase her friend Susan Alkhadra’s spinning abilities and to teach youngsters about the flora and fauna of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The story was originally written to be told, but demand for copies lead to its publication in Blue Ridge Traditions magazine in 1998 and, ultimately, to this book.

Ferradiddledumday is an Appalachian Version of Rumpelstiltskin. A need for money prompts the heroine, Gillie, a master spinner, to make a deal that appears to be a blessing, but turns out to actually be a curse. In the end, bald-faced luck saves the day, and all live happily ever after. Those who have read Rumpelstiltskin will recognize the familiar motifs.

The charm of Mushko’s tale lies in its Appalachian authenticity. Her words paint pictures of mountains brimming with ticks, chiggers, rattlesnakes, and copperheads. When Gillie walks the mountains, she is loved by the pipsissewa, the maidenhair ferns, and the dogtooth violets, all of which beg her to pick them. Superstition plays a part, too, as bad omens appear in threes: Gillie spills salt; a bird flies through the cabin; and her father sees the moon over his left shoulder.

Hence, the appearance of a strange little man who hears the trees whispering among themselves. Gillie’s misfortune could very well be his gain. His magic could very well be her salvation. As every lover of fairy tales knows, however, magic comes at a price, in this case a dear one.

Bruce Rae’s sketches enhance the story without overwhelming it. His attention to minute detail gives the reader a sense of both the Appalachian environment and the culture. He was a good choice to illustrate this book.
This book includes a study guide that highlights the literature, history, geography, and science particular to the Appalachians. A lively and informative discussion should ensue.

The Fireside Reader review by R. Tipton: While I almost never, even as a child, read children's books, I found myself talking to a very nice lady on Facebook one day, someone who shares my somewhat specialized interest in Appalachian literature (and art), who told me that she had a new book being released soon. Would I please review it? Certainly, I said, though I had my doubts about a children's book. After all, talk is where the market is, and books sell more from word of mouth than anything else. I'd at least give it a whirl. 
I was in no way prepared for what I got. A few days after I talked to her, Ms. Mushko's book arrived in my mail box. I opened it, almost grimacing with low expectations... and got a delightful surprise.  
Simply said, FERRADIDDLEDUMDAY is a wonderful work of art.

Ms. Mushko doesn't talk down to her audience, she just tells the story. It has to be a gift, because I've seen so  many children's books that came out in a pedantic, boring way, too simple and too unloved by the author to give it life in anyone's  eyes, let alone a child's. (Honestly, you can't fool most children. They'll lay the book down in a dusty corner and go turn on the  television instead.) Ms. Mushko's FERRADIDDLEDUMDAY is in no way such a boring thing ... it bounces! It rolls. It travels around the hills and in the mind of the reader with a magic seldom seen these days.

FERRADIDDLEDUMDAY is a brilliant retelling of the classic RUMPLESTILTSKIN, with a highly flavorful and rich Appalachian twist. The mountain plants and skills visited in the story are real and vivid, fresh from the pen of someone who knows their art well, and who knows genuinely the mind of an inquistive, interested child.

The illustrations, done by master Appalachian artist Bruce Rae, are absolutely not to be missed, either. By no means! They are charming, delightful, and done with absolutely sure hands, the kind of illustrations that are timeless and beloved by all ages.

There is a "Q & A" section in the back, a teaching aid. I was delighted to read that as well, as it offers a great deal of insight into the world of growing young minds. Ms. Mushko's skill with teaching is every bit as great as her skill with storytelling. Aided by Mr. Rae, the result is a highly enjoyable book.

This book is very highly recommended -- read it with your children. You'll love it too. I did, and I am one picky-eyed, tough cookie, especially when it comes to children's books.
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 January Magazine review by Aaron Blanton: A charming and surprising retelling of the classic children’s fairy-tale. Rumpelstilskin gets a new—and Appalachian—lease on life with Pushcart Prize nominated author and retired teacher, Becky Mushko. Wool spinning maven Gillie is leading a happy life in the Blue Ridge Mountains until a hailstorm wipes out the cash crop of her family farm. When Gillie and her father are in the depths of despair, an odd little man gives Gillie the power to spin hay into gold and everything is wonderful again, until the little man demands his payment. Though there’s a lot in Ferradiddledumday to like, those for whom the Appalachians resonate will find some especially warm moments. Teachers and home-schoolers will find a terrific bonus in former teacher Mushko’s study and discussion guides.