Cover of Grumbles from the Forest by Jane Yolen

Grumbles from the Forest

Rebecca Kai Dotlich and I wanted to write a book of poems together. We tried several ideas, but the one that seemed to catch fire—and catch the eye of an editor was a book of fairy tale poems each fairy tale with a poem by each of us.

The book went through endless revisions. First we edited one another’s poems. Then the book’s original editor had us do more revisions. When she got kicked upstairs, the new editor had us do another several rounds of revisions. The poems got better, the book got better.

And then with the addition of the amazing Matt Mahurin who did the impossible—he got the art in a full season earlier than contracted for–the book was pushed forward. What a rush of emotions.

A companion book—Grumbles from the Town, based on nursery rhymes—is planned.


What reviewers have said:

  • “Fairy tales have been fractured, reimagined, told, and retold. Here, Yolen and Dotlich get into the heads of the characters and put their thoughts in verse. Hansel and Gretel, Red Riding Hood, and the Gingerbread Boy are all here. But sometimes it’s not the character you’d expect who makes an appearance. The giant’s wife explains how fond she is of Jack. The four principals from Rumpelstiltskin—the miller, his daughter, the king, and the little man—argue about which one of them has lied. There are poems, haiku, and even a letter from Goldilocks informing the owner of the cottage how bears broke in, causing havoc. Most are quite delightful, a few thought-provoking, including the anniversary note from Beauty after a decades-long marriage to the Beast. Oversize paintings fill the pages. Mottled backgrounds, often dark, sometimes even foreboding, showcase witches, trolls, heroes, and heroines in startling new ways. In one, Snow White’s head protrudes from a mirror. An introduction urges readers to use this book as a starting point for their own writing, while an afterword introduces the original stories.”—Booklist
  • “Yolen and Dotlich refashion 15 classic fairy tales into incisive poems told from dual perspectives. Cinderella laments wearing glass shoes when other choices were moresensible (‘I could have put on/ moccasins./ Those would have been real stunners’). Cinderella’s stepsisters also speak up: ‘She moved to a castle, maids and all./ Oh piddle! That slipper./ That rat./ That Ball.’ In an especially stirring poem, Beauty speaks of her initial resistance to the Beast: ‘I can’t get past/ his fangs, his roar.’ In their twilight years, it’s a different story: ‘I have no regrets./ None./ Though sometimes I do wonder/ what sounds children/ might have made/ running across the marble halls.’ Mahurin’s inky illustrations make theatrical use of dimension, light, and shadow as the characters bound from their expected roles.”—Publisher’s Weekly
  • “An intriguing idea becomes a thought-provoking collection of short poems from characters readers only thought they knew…. While every poem is accessible, some are richer and darker than others…. Mahurin’ssurreal images are layered with color, now matte, now iridescent, with exaggerated perspectives and dreamlike, occasionally nightmarish, elongated or oversized figures.The poets invite and may well entice readers to write their own fairy-tale poems.”—Kirkus
  • “Did you ever pause to wonder, while reading (or listening to) “The Princess and the Pea,” that perhaps the pea had its own take on the story? Well, Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich thought about that, and the happy result is “Grumbles from the Forest,” a collection of saucy poems that cast a new light on fairy tales…My favorite new voice comes from the pea smothered by dozens of feather beds, the innocent trap in a princess-testing trap. “I weep through her snoring/ But she never hears/ I miss my dear pod/ And my seven green peers.” Matt Mahurin’s illustrations hint at his dark side, but are leavened with light and humor, and his Thumbelina images are just lovely.”–Denver Post
  • “[This book] not only opens new doors into familiar stories but challenges readers to always look beyond the known. As an introduction to fairy tales or a reminder of the opportunities they present, this collection of poems is a welcome chorus. Having read these over and over, silently and aloud, their magic is of the kind that lingers.”–Librarian’s Quest Blog
  • “These two authors mess with your head about the characters and many times the perspective is from an inanimate object. This book of poetry would be great for ESL students and others who do not know the original story. Some students today might not “get it” if they do not know the original pieces. So,it will help students to read the originals first and then they will really enjoy these poems of fractured fairy tales. Two pages in the back of the book provide brief summaries of the original stories. Also included is information about the origins.”– Arlington ISD Librarian’s Book Review Form – Arlington, Texas