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Rumple Buttercup: A Story of Bananas, Belonging, and Being Yourself

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Rumple Buttercup: A Story of Bananas, Belonging, and Being Yourself Book Poster Image
Endearing monster finds we're all a bit weird in sweet tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Rumple Buttercup's engaging style will attract and delight many an early reader (and also the read-aloud set).

Positive Messages

Strong messages of recognizing that we're all weird in some way, and so what? Let's get on with having a good life together.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sweet, shy, funny-looking Rumple is endearing in his longing for friends (to the point of making an imaginary one) -- as well as his delight at being accepted and befriended. The boy and the man who befriend him point out the weird things about themselves so Rumple will realize he's not the only one.

Violence & Scariness

Rumple worries about what will happen if anyone ever sees him. Especially if they get scared, run away, or throw rocks at his head. (In fact, none of these things happen.)

Language

"Weird" comes up a lot, but that's as strong as the language gets.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Rumple Buttercup is an appealing tale aimed at early readers, written and illustrated by Matthew Gray Gubler. The title character is a strange-looking, lizard-like fellow who's so worried about how people will react to his weird appearance that he spends his life in a storm drain, looking longingly at all the fun happening outside and trying to be invisible. But things  take a turn for the better when a boy and his dad insist on befriending him, and Rumple soon learns that everybody's got something about themselves that they think is weird, and we can all have fun together just the same. Between the endearing illustrations and the kindly life lessons, there's a lot to like here.

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What's the story?

RUMPLE BUTTERCUP has five crooked teeth, three strands of hair, green skin, and his feet are different sizes. He's sure if anyone sees him it won't go well, so he spends his life hiding in a storm drain with his imaginary friend, Candy Corn Carl. When he wants to see what's going on outside, he dons his disguise -- a banana peel on top of his head -- and sticks his head outside the drain. He thinks this makes him invisible. After years of this, he's feeling sad, discouraged, lonely, left out, and sure this is just the way things are, because after all, he's weird, right? And then he hears a voice from above. And it's not Candy Corn Carl. Things are about to change fast.

Is it any good?

Matthew Gray Gubler's whimsical illustrated tale of a monster trying to stay invisible because he's afraid people will think he's weird and be mean to him will resonate with kids and adults alike. Sweet, shy, lonely Rumple Buttercup gets sadder and sadder watching the world go by, and resorts to pathetically hilarious coping strategies like hiding under a banana peel. But when some people insist on befriending him anyhow, and everybody he meets points out something weird about themselves, it's a life-affirming and life-changing discovery for Rumple, and also for the reader.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the main character seems himself in Rumple Buttercup. How do we expect other people to see us? Are there things we do in our everyday lives so people will think we're nice and accept us? 

  • Do you have any imaginary friends (like Candy Corn Carl, who's Rumple's imaginary friend)? Do your real-life friends know about them, and if so what do they think? Do you make up characters together sometimes?

  • Have you ever watched a parade? Have you ever marched in one, or ridden on a float? Was it fun? What did you like best? Did anything surprise you?

Book details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love stories of friendship and dealing with differences

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