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Monday, May 19, 2014

Grumbles from the Forest, poems by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich and illustrations by Matt Mahurin. Wordsong, Raincoast. 2013. $19.95 ages 8 and up

"...He was always
an impatient fellow,
headstrong but sweet,
our little ginger treat.
We sip our tea and wonder
if he might've been happier
as a sugar cookie
or a peanut butter ball.
To this day we miss him -
we baked him,
after all."

There are 15 fairy tales represented here in poems that speak from different perspectives. I found myself reading them, and reading them again to savor the words and the thoughts. Two short poems are fashioned for each of the tales chosen, and the poetic formats change often. Two characters, both animate and inanimate, have a say. Very interesting to hear from the pea and the princess, each with a totally different take on the dilemma they face:

"Stuck under the mattress
As sleeping time nears,
I miss my dear pod,
My peeps and my peers.

I weep through her snoring,
But she never hears.
I miss my dear pod
And my seven green peers."


"A tower of feather beds!
A meddling of tricks!

Jagged stones and crooked sticks
could never hurt me more.

Of course I was sore,
but not from a silly pea.

You know what bothered me?
All those mattresses, and then some

made my body (tip to princess toe)
completely and royally numb."

In addition to the poetry, there is a list that provides writers' credits for each poem included in the collection. Following that, there is a short summary for each of the tales presented, in case the audience is not familiar with the story. It is a nice addition.

I have favorites, and you will find the same when you read this for yourself, or share it in your classrooms and homes. There is much to encourage students to attempt some of their own voices and perspectives. Fairy tales can be such fun for children. Most should be familiar to readers; if not, it's a perfect excuse to get your hands on a fine collection and share them alongside this book.

The authors are accomplished wordsmiths. By sharing the voices of characters in these old tales, they allow a new and fresh look. As we try to develop meaningful character studies, we can choose books such as this one for mentoring ourselves and our children. Thoughtful and inventive discussion will come when they are allowed to consider things from very different perspectives. Further learning will happen when we take the time to read some of these old and valued tales.

The bold palette used by Matt Mahurin to create his stunning illustrations are infused with light and shadow, exaggerated figures and moody backdrops. They add depth and interest to the poems presented.


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