The text is wonderful. I was surprised but found myself very much enjoying skipping the usual beginning and starting right off with the father lost in...more The text is wonderful. I was surprised but found myself very much enjoying skipping the usual beginning and starting right off with the father lost in the forest. Excellent retelling of the tale.
Then the illustrations… are weird. A mix of photographs (or photorealism) and almost cartoony medieval-esque backgrounds.
It felt like those 1980’s music videos using Rotoscope to tell a punk rock rendition of a fairy tale with a girl with pink hair and ripped jeans jumping all over a fake castle and singing about how she’s gonna rock that curse with the power of love (and synthesizers). (less)
**spoiler alert** I read this years and years ago, and I all remembered was the Beauty and the Beast tale – which I remembered vividly and in a detail...more**spoiler alert** I read this years and years ago, and I all remembered was the Beauty and the Beast tale – which I remembered vividly and in a detailed fashion, and yet clean forget everything in the rest of the book. Which… was just as well, because while the Beauty and the Beast gets 5 stars (and such a good 5 stars I’ll give the whole book 5 stars based on that alone) the rest of the book is, well, m’eh.
The first tale is a retelling of The Frog Prince, in which the queen discovers happily ever after with the king is boring compared to the courtship with the frog prince. The obvious ending is a loooong time in coming as the story drags on in making its point about love and communication.
The second is the jewel of the collection, Brooke’s highly original retelling of Beauty and the Beast in which it builds up to a reveal of Beauty being so ugly people can’t look at her, and the Beast being so beautiful people can’t look at him either. The Beast was cursed to be rich and powerful and magical and beautiful – and discovers it truly is a psychological torture of the first order to never be able to trust anything positive said to his face. Beauty comes to enjoy being in a position of finding a true equal, and her mischievous twist at the end of delighting in some material pleasures was a very fun ending.
The third retelling is a mix of Sleeping Beauty with some Snow White and Rapunzel in the background, bringing in some Hansel and Gretel briefly. And then, after all that thrown in with the kitchen sink, the story gets hopelessly meta as the Author shows up and the prince goes on a cyber space adventure. >eye roll< (less)
In this version of Beauty and the Beast, illustrations by Barry Moser and text by Nancy Willard, I must say I got a lot more than I bargained for!
The...moreIn this version of Beauty and the Beast, illustrations by Barry Moser and text by Nancy Willard, I must say I got a lot more than I bargained for!
Barry Moser brings his own undeniable talents to the story of Beauty and the Beast and puts his unique and slightly horrifying stamp on it.
His woodcut drawings illustrate a story in a horror movie style – gloomy and foreboding, full of hidden mystery just waiting to jump out at you and have you for dinner.
But for what is technically classified as a “picture book,” this book is heavy on text and light in illustrations.
In the 70 pages of the book, only 14 pages are illustrations – the rest are all text. An illustration only pops up every five pages or so, so when you do turn the page, it can be unexpected, especially when the illustration shows a portrait style picture of a character looking straight back at the reader. Of the 14 illustrations, 4 are close ups of objects or hands, 4 are pictures showing settings, and the remaining 6 are all portrait style illustrations of different characters, and 4 of those are of the character illustrated staring at the reader.
So, its surprising when you turn the page, after several pages of text, and find yourself looking at one of Moser’s woodcuts, and even rarer when you see a character looking back at you. When I turned the page and found myself looking at the portrait of the Beast staring at me, I was quite honesty startled and just plain scared.
This is no vaguely bear or lion like creature, no archaic monster of Harryhausen like proportions. This is someone who quite clearly is on the extreme end of the human ugly/beautiful spectrum – terrifying, but undeniably human. No monsters are as scary as the ones with human eyes. What’s worse is, taking the time to really look at the Beast’s face, he appears to be stuck with a combination of two or three very real genetic disorders. Even more horrific than him is the thought that this is something that can (and probably has) popped up in the gene pool. That is really what scares us poor humans – the thought that all that separates us from the monster was a roll of the DNA dice.
When I got over my shock of fear and was able to look at the picture a little more critically, I decided he reminded most strongly of Mr. Hyde – this Beast looked like the dark side of humanity all wrapped up in one creature wearing natty evening clothes and a top hat. The fact that Moser has illustrated Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde along with Frankenstein perhaps explains why he chose to make the Beast so human.
Overall, all of the illustrations are gloomy and foreboding – even in black and white it’s easy to imagine all take place at twilight. The houses are the standard cabins and mansions from horror movies, the woods dark and deep, the weather sinister, the characters nervous and even the smallest of objects, such as a chess piece, looks evil.
There’s one picture showing a twisty staircase, Beauty’s feet hovering at the frame of the picture as she decides whether or not to go up the stairs. You can practically hear the spooky music in the background and want to shout at her, much as one might at Tippi in The Birds to ‘don’t do that!’
However, there are two illustrations of Beauty and the Beast that remind the viewer strongly that this is, after all, a love story. The 9th picture, when Beauty and the Beast have recently met, shows just their hands, her hand on top of his paw, her white fingers and delicately manicured fingernails in sharp contrast to his hairy paw and sharp claws, both hands hovering over a scowling king piece as she teaches him how to play chess.
The hands, so close together, is a picture of intimacy and trust and burgeoning love. Later, after the curse is broken, all we see of the un-cursed Beast – now revealed to be a handsome young man named William (and doesn’t that have a nice princely sound to it?) – is his human hand, palm opening, reaching and clasping Beauty’s hand in an intimate handshake, a beautiful way of illustrating the standard two-become-one love phrase.
So, love and horror, both perfectly illustrated by Moser.
This version sets Beauty and the Beast in early Edwardian New York, circa 1906. Its every inch the Gilded Age. But, as much as this story draws from the era of The Age of Innocence, it also goes back to the original Beaumont version; it’s a beautiful combination.
The story starts out with a long description of what defines Beauty’s family as being Rich: a townhouse on Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park, marble and bronze decorations in the house, the family members laded with jewels and silks and furs, eating and drinking the finest foods and drinks from crystal and gold served to them by a phalanx of servants.
There’s a lot of things packed into the introduction, as over decorated as any Edwardian parlor.
The merchant lavishly spoils his three daughters, left motherless when their mother dies young. The mother character is given some back story – ownership of an upstate cottage, an interest in astrology, an elderly friend that supports her dabbling in magic, and hints of mysterious trips. But, as the story always goes, the mother dies, and the girls are pampered to the extreme. The elder daughters delight in all things High Society, but the youngest, Beauty, of course doesn’t like all the rules, and of course prefers reading to socializing.
When the merchant loses his fortune, Willard takes some pains to describe everything they lose, and what it means to move to an area of the country that is still living a pretty much pre-Industrial Revolution life with wells for water, no electricity, and having to make just about everything you own, use and eat. Beauty gets into the spirit of making-do, while the sisters sulk in the last of their old riches, playing the parts of has-beens to the clichéd hilt. Meanwhile, the father longs for the old days as much as his older daughters, and hurries back to the city the second word comes that one of his lost cargo vessels has returned.
He travels though the state in the middle of winter, and you can practically see the drifts of snow, the country buried in blankets of first storms of the season, the city dazzling with winter decorations. His dreams of returning to the ranks of the wealthy, alas, fall through, and he is forced to turn back into the storm where, in the middle of a blizzard, he stumbles on the beast’s castle, a Victorian mansion in this version.
The opulence describe inside the beast’s home makes everything about the merchant’s former wealth pale in comparison, which is saying a lot, to be followed quickly by the terror of the Beast’s arrival after the fateful rose plucking, and the impossible demand.
Beauty takes her father’s place and when she returns, further descriptions of the Beast’s home, the furniture, the decorations, the opulence and luxury, the dining room, the meals, the music, the bedroom, the dresses, and, oh, the books!, left me, frankly, jealous.
In true Edwardian fashion, Beast gives Beauty a book about the language of flowers – a perfect addition for a Beauty and the Beast story set in this time period.
Time passes, and we get the story of two people actually taking the time to get to know one another before falling in love (which is why this is my favorite of the fairy tales) as well as Beauty exploring more and more of the mysterious house.
The story continues along the well worn path: Beauty returns home for a visit, she’s delayed by her sisters going back, reunites with the Beast, True Love proclaimed, curses broken, and happily ever afters all around.
I’m knocking one star off for unanswered questions. The author introduced information and plot threads here and there, and then, disappointingly, lets them drop. What was with the lemon squares? Who was this astrologist? What was the mother up to in her up state cabin? And why and how did the beast get cursed in the first place?
And one last note: I’m ambivalent about the fate of the two older sisters. Yes, they are world class b*tches, but every now and then they showed signs of depth, so it seemed a shame to more or less consign them to hell with no room for redemption, or grey areas. For shame Beast, to judge others so harshly! (less)
First, be aware that I devoured this book down like chocolate. Good chocolate. Good, dark, European chocolate. So whatever my criticisms, bear in my m...moreFirst, be aware that I devoured this book down like chocolate. Good chocolate. Good, dark, European chocolate. So whatever my criticisms, bear in my mind, I loved this book. 4 ½ stars.
1.) The internet chat room for transformed people. I would have liked to learn more about the moderator "Chris Anderson," who airily mentions at one point he’s studied “this type of thing,” but the few chat room scenes really worked as a plot device to move things along. And it was hilarious. I would love to see more books on the stories of the other members of the chat room - I really want to know how things worked out for "froggie", “Grizzlyguy” and “snowgirl”.
2.) The school. If ever there were a place where it could be said the medieval royal court moved to where courtiers peck each other and jockey for power and royalty rule supreme with absolute power it surely is the high school. Our Beast while still the human Kyle is king of the cool kids, and boy does he know it and abuse his power, and it is so gratifying when the Goth girl turns out to be a witch ("you made this so easy to decide", she tells him) and takes him down a few pegs.
3.) Motivation. The author manages to make Kyle vial and understandable deserving of the curse, but at the same time presented with a list of reasons why a) he turned out so bad and b) why he is redeemable. Good job of balancing the opposing traits.
4.) Point of view. It’s the Beast’s point of view, which is a fun twist. Last time this was done - Beast by Donna Jo Napoli - I had to scrub my brain with brain bleach due to some very bad scenes involving the prince’s royal zoo. Luckily, Kyle doesn’t go to the NYC zoo and I didn’t have to get the brain bleach back out.
5.) The brownstone. The brownstone as castle worked perfectly, with the Beast knocking around the place exactly like an enchanted prince in an abandoned castle. Wonderful job of showing just how awful it was despite being surrounded by just about all possible material goods.
6.) Literature. Beauty and the Beast both have an excellent taste in books. Beauty reads Jane Eyre and Beast reads The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Like every other B&B story, I drooled over the library. I loved that Beast got so incredibly bored that he started reading and specifically asked for a teacher, which brings me to:
7.) Their teacher. Mr. Fratalli is all kinds of awesome, and a lot of help in setting Kyle on the path to redemption. His attitude is great, in all its sarcastic, amused, angry, softened, I-am-helping-you-learn moments. He also gets some great wry one liners, very deft at summing up all sorts of situations. And he brings the roses, which leads to:
8.) The rose garden. It’s beautiful. And a wonderful explanation is offered as to why the original Beast might have flipped out over one rose. Kyle/Beast shows real growth (no pun intended) when he learns about gardening and takes the time to actually make and take care of something himself for the first time instead of just paying someone to do it.
9.) The love story. Beauty and the Beast is alone in the fairy tale cannon of not having love-at-first-sight, but actually giving the couple the radical concept of time to get to know one another. The author does a good job with the time frame here.
10.) The whole re-telling is very well imaged – each part of the original story is taken apart and fitted back together to make sense in a modern setting and yet still stay true to the fairy tale.
1.) The genre saviness was always in flux - sometimes people knew about fairy tales, and sometimes they don't. It’s always hard to know where to draw the line in a fairy-tale retelling between awareness of the genre itself and recognizing being in an actual tale that's already been told and wrecking the suspension-of-disbelief. Meh.
2.) The limitless credit card - as fun as the shopping spree scenes were, it sure made life easier for everyone, didn't it? I would have liked to see how Holly Black would have handled this plot - she really knows how to mix magic with those of us not living like royalty.
3.) Linda. Really? You named your Beauty character Linda? It sounds … so not like Beauty’s name. I looked up and yes, Linda does mean beautiful in Italian, but nothing is said in text, which is weird, because a lot of in-text thought goes into the Beast’s name. As a human he is Kyle Kingsbury, ‘Kyle’ meaning handsome, (which is explicitly stated in the text) and Kingsbury obviously having the word ‘king’ in it. Then, as beast, he goes looking for a new name online and picks “Adrian” because it means “dark one,” which fits his mood at that point.
4.) Magda. The reveal of her back-story left a bad taste in my mouth - it did nothing but reinforce some bad stereotypes.
5.) Beast is going to let Beauty go… but instead Magda convinces him to take her upstate? It would have worked better if going to the cabin was his idea.
6.) Fanfiction. The author admits in her author’s note in the end, and partly through the author-avatar board moderator that she has read/watched a LOT of fairy tales, and it shows. She comes close to fanfiction territory quite a few times as certain scenes seemed to be quite close to Disney, Beaumont, both McKinley versions, Duvall, and Napoli.
1.) Linda as a damsel-in-distress kinda pissed me off. Shouldn’t she be a little more street-wise by this point?
2.) She… forgot the address? And no one remembered to tell it to her or write it down before she left? That’s why she’s late coming back? Nothing to do with the original Freudian sub-texts in the old fairy tale? Lame. Its as plot-thin as the part in King Leer when the servant is all: “Oops. The princess is dead – I forgot to give the executioner that whole ‘don’t-execute’ order. My bad.” Oh, please. >eye roll<
The movie. Will it be as good as the book? Dare I hope? (less)
When I say this is a mature and grown up version of Beauty and the Beast, I don't mean in a sexual way. It is a story obviously written by someone who...moreWhen I say this is a mature and grown up version of Beauty and the Beast, I don't mean in a sexual way. It is a story obviously written by someone who looks back at young love though the lens of several decades worth of life experience. There's a weariness in the tone, as well as understanding of reality, and the story conveys a sense of the work that life takes - like the work it takes to make a garden grow, but, oh, the beauty of the rose that can result with enough patience.
No easy magical solutions here, and I like the book for showing the problems magic can create, and the joys of simple things, like star gazing. (less)