We here at Green Man get more fiction for review than really bears thinking about. Some of it is very good, some of it is serviceable, if somewhat uninspiring, and a lot of it is just plain awful. I personally always look forward to a book by Yolen coming in, as I have a fondness for Jane Yolen, both as a writer and as a really cool person. Her short novel, The Wild Hunt, is one that I re-read every winter, and I recommend that you add it to your reading list as well. As Naomi DeBruyn said in her review of a work by Yolen:
Jane Yolen is a prolific and very talented crafter of tales. Not only does this delightful woman write for adults, but she writes for the younger folk as well. Twelve Impossible Things Before Breakfast is one of her books aimed at the younger crowd, although it would delight people of any age, I believe. In my mind, Jane’s name long ago became synonymous with great fiction. Over the years she has won a number of awards, including the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, three Mythopoeic Awards, and a World Fantasy Award, just to name a few.
She is that rare creature who as a writer who is both prolific — over two hundred works by her so far — and very, very consistent at being good at what she does.
Winning the Mythopoeic Award even once is impressive, but winning it three times is amazing for any writer, given how selective those awards are. Jane won it for three wonderful works — in 1985 for Cards of Grief, an adult novel, in 1993 for Briar Rose, another adult novel, and in 1998 fort The Young Merlin Trilogy (Passanger/Hobby/Merlin), a trilogy of children’s novels. She notes in an e-mail that she won the World Fantasy Award for ‘for Favorite Folktales from Around The World, Two Nebulas, for ‘Lost Girls’ and ‘Sister Emily’s Lightship.’ Two Christopher Medals. And a partridge in a pear tree.
Her Web site is one which you should definitely visit if you’re interested in young adult literature, as her blog is one of the more interesting ones I’ve seen that a writer is doing!
Her latest collection, Once Upon A Time (she said), shows her at her very best, with a fine collection of short stories, poems, and essays in a wonderfully designed book. With its compact form, the book is perfect for slipping in your coat pocket for carrying along so you can dip into it all the day long, or perhaps to hold comfortably in your hand as you sit in your favorite overstuffed chair by the fireplace reading late into the night. NEASFA, the New England Science Fiction Association, was also the publisher of Emma Bull and Will Shetterly’s Double Feature, a volume with a similar approach of short fiction, poetry, and essays. All their editions are printed in a relatively small numbers so you are advised to purchase Once Upon A Time (she said) as soon as possible to avoid disappointment!
So what’s good here. Everything. What more do you need to know? Oh, ok. . . .
Well, there are six wonderful essays here ( ‘Fantasy Novels: Truth in Disguise’, ‘America’s Cinderella’, ‘The Brothers Grimm and Sister Jane’, ‘Oh, God, Here Come the Elves’, ‘The Story Between’, and ‘Remembering Books’) which are well worth reading. And over forty stories are here, including such delightful tales as ‘The Maiden Made of Fire’, ‘The Foxwife’, and the truly silly take on the Red Riding Hood story called ‘Happy Dens: or A Day in the Old Wolves’ Home’ wherein Nurse Lamb faces faces the all of the big bad wolves in their declining years. Let’s just say it’s not a pretty sight. (Animaniacs, a Warner Brothers animated series, has an aging wolf named Walter Wolf who, with his bad back and falling out dentures, would feel quite at home with these grumpy, aging wolves!) There are hours upon hours of reading pleasure awaiting you in Once Upon A Time (she said).
The poetry here is up to you to judge, as I must be candid and say that most poetry is not to my liking. That said, ‘The Storyteller’ is the single best look at the storytelling art I’ve had the pleasure to read, and ‘Into The Wood’ is one very creepy piece of writing.
Once Upon A Time (she said) will likely see me dipping into it ever so often when I need a short story for a quick read. When not in use, it will proudly reside in our fiction collection alongside the other Yolens, such as The One-Armed Queen, Touch Magic — Fantasy, Faerie & Folklore in the Literature of Childhood (another book of essays), the previously mentioned The Wild Hunt, and Tam Lin, to name but a few of her works that are here.
Thank you Jane for yet another fine work!