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Early/Young Readers, Fairy/Folk/Tall Tale, Picture Books, Poetry

GRUMBLES FROM THE FOREST by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich Illustrated by Matt Mahurin

Grumbles From The Forest: Fairy Tale Voices With a Twist is a collection of poetry.  The Dear Readers letter at the beginning of the book clearly spells out the authors’ intentions:  using some of the most well-known Western fairy tales they are going to re-imagine each one through a poet’s eyes, juggling different–sometimes unexpected–perspectives.

The structure of the book is that each double page spread is devoted to a different fairy tale. The facing pages each contain a different poem created about the identified fairy tale from different, specific perspectives. The poems are accompanied by an artist’s rendering of whichever fairytale is the focus on that page. On the final pages of the book the authors have also included short, succinct summaries of each fairy tale’s plot (in case there are some with which the reader is not familiar).

The poems range from average to brilliant and Mahern’s illustrations are reminiscent of the beautiful renderings in my (and my children’s) favorite picture book edition of Rumpelstiltskin by Paul O. Zelinsky: soft, rich jewel tones.

Excerpts from some of my favorites among the poems are “About Grandma Wolf”:

Was I fooled?

Not a bit.

Grandma’s nightgown

didn’t fit.

and “Who Told The Lie?”:

The Miller and His Daughter:

“My daughter can spin

Flax into gold.”

“I can spin flax–

I do as I’m told.”

Who told the lie?

“Not I!”

“Not I!”…

The poem goes on to address the King, the New Queen and Rumpelstiltskin’s behavior and motives with spectacular incisiveness and rhythm. (I don’t want to spoil the whole thing by giving it to you here in its entirety!)

Grumbles From The Forest has so many possibilities as a read-aloud leading into interactive exercises in character and perspective (written, oral and physical–or any combination thereof). I have already added it to my theatre resource list for rehearsals and workshops! I really enjoyed this! Playing with language and stories–particularly fairy tales–is one of my favorite things! Similar in premise to books like The True Story of The Three Pigs by Jon Scieszka, this is a great independent or read-aloud selection for anyone who enjoys fractured fairy tales or is looking for a springboard into units about poetry, fairytales or the importance of perspective on the tone of a story.



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