In a glorious castle set deep in a mysterious forest, the tale of a father's fate-filled promise and a daughter's courage unfolds. This story, themed on Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont's version first published in France in 1756, is filled with sumptuous paintings and ornamental detail.
Beauty and the Beast, perhaps the best-known example of the 'enchanted bridegroom' tale - type 425C in the Aarne-Thompson-Uther folklore classification system - is one of my absolute favorite fairy-tales, so I was simply delighted to learn, earlier this year, that a new picture-book retelling by Kinuko Craft, one of my absolute favorite fairy-tale illustrators, was due out this July. I am even more thrilled that I had a chance to look at an advanced readers copy today - thank you indeed to the colleague who provided it to me, as it is a joy to peruse! The retelling is a capable one, but the true joy (as expected) was the lush artwork, which Craft has apparently been working on for over a decade. The initial painting, which shows the country cottage to which the merchant and his daughters have withdrawn, reminded me a bit of the tiny house in What Miranda Knew, one of the formative titles of my early childhood. With that initial positive association, things only went from good to better. The colors used are vibrant without being garish, and each scene is a delight, in every intricate detail. The settings, whether garden or palace, are simply gorgeous - the two-page spread in which Beauty discovers the theatre left me simply breathless at its magnificence - as are the costumes. Beast himself is rather interesting - part bear, part leopard, part boar - and Beauty is lovely (of course). Craft ably captures the enchantment of the tale, but she also captures the emotion, whether it be the tender scene in which Beauty and her father embrace, or the poignant one in which she finds the dying Beast. Strongly recommended to all fairy-tale fans, as well as to admirers of Kinuko Craft's work!