Once Upon a Time (She Said)

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Jane Yolen, a well-known writer of fantasy and science fiction, has won prizes such as Nebula Awards, Christopher Awards, and the Caldecott Medal. This collection results from her selection as a Guest of Honor at the 2005 World Science Fiction Convention. Once Upon a Time (She Said) includes more than eighty pieces—some originally intended for children, some for adults—that embody the power of imagination to transcend boundaries seemingly imposed by the world.

Many story images are likely to reverberate. A woman retrieves her husband's skeleton from a mermaid and sees his body reassemble—layer upon layer—as he rises from the bottom of the sea in “The Fisherman's Wife.” A maiden's voice, which had been frozen in slivers, thaws at sunrise into the sound of one woman crying, then rises with the sun into the babble of a thousand women calling to their men in “Silent Bianca.” Yolen also gives a new twist on familiar fairytales, suggesting in “Happy Dens or a Day at the Old Wolves’ Home” that wolves have had bad press.

The prose pieces are reprints; some poems are published here for the first time. Yolen fans will revel in them all. Readers less familiar will be forgiven if, at times, they get bogged down by fairies and curses and foundling boys. In all likelihood, Yolen's genius for truth and surprising juxtaposition will win out in the end. Indeed, it may be wise to savor these pieces in small bites. This is the sort of collection that readers may want to keep close by for a long time.