Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlitch
Illustrated by Matt Mahurin
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Boyds Mills Press, 2013, 978-1-59078-867-7
Fairy tales have been delighting and terrifying children for generations. The stories have played important roles in popular culture and many have been turned into plays, musicals, and films. The one thing that they have in common is that the “good guys” almost always win, and the “bad guys” usually get their just desserts. In a world that is full of chaos, unknowns, and unhappy endings, fairy tales can help us to feel comforted and secure.
Jane Yolen, the author and poet, clearly loves fairy tales, and she has written many such stories over the years. For this poetry collection she has collaborated with children’s book author and poet Rebecca Kai Dotlich. Together they have created poems that allow young readers to look at some classic fairy tales in a new way. Instead of telling the stories in the third person, which is the way most fairy tales are presented, they use the voices of the characters in the stories to present a fresh point of view. For every story there are two poems. Sometimes the poems are from the point of view of one character, and sometimes we hear from two characters.
For example, in Hansel and Gretel, Gretel begins by talking about how she and her brother should have guessed at once that they “were in deep, deep trouble” when they found the witch’s house with its “chocolate doorknobs” and “marzipan bricks.” Then we hear from Hans, who has quite a different approach. He is optimistic and says, “No worries, no need to fear.” He is convinced that he, Hans, will be able to save the day.
Sometimes we even hear from characters who do not appear in the stories, characters who surely might have popped out of the pages if someone had had thought to write them in. For example in The Three Bears, the first poem we read allows us to hear not just bear voices and Goldilocks voice. We also hear the voice of Officer Bruin who has come to “view / The ruin.”
Readers of all ages who like fairy tales are going to enjoy exploring the thirty poems in this book. It is interesting to hear how different the voices of the characters sound and how many perspectives there are in one tale. Readers might be tempted to try their hand at writing some of their own fairy tale poems. What would Jack’s beanstalk have to say about being climbed, and what would Cinderella’s glass slipper have to say about the girl who charmed a prince?