A Re-Telling of Beauty and the Beast
With the release of the new live action film, there are all kinds of Beauty and the Beast displays at bookstores. Of course I couldn't resist and I snagged Liz Braswell's As Old as Time for myself (Review forthcoming--I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but Mini Me already has. Of course. My motto for her is, "See a book, read a book." It's adapted from what one surgical resident once told me when I was a medical student, "See a donut, eat a donut". He was referencing the long hours in training, and the ways our eating habits change because of those many hours spent at the hospital.) I also picked up the new picture book version of Beauty and the Beast as retold by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Meg Park.
I'm not going to lie: I was disappointed. I was attracted to this version because it has beautiful, vintage-style drawings. Each spread is breathtaking. However--as in all books and movies--the story comes first. And the story could use some tweaking.
I do love that Belle/Beauty had a bit of a different background. (SPOILER ALERT FOR THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH!) She has two older sisters who are more concerned with their social standing than their family. And, like the new live action film, Beauty's father angers the Beast for picking a rose from his garden. However, this is where the story diverges a little bit. And I like where it is headed, except for the fact that we never get anywhere.
What do I mean by that? The beginning of this picture book spends a long time setting up the different background that only two spreads are devoted to Beauty's time with the Beast. And then he sets her free, she cares for her ailing father, and she returns to the Beast. All because she has 'niggling' feelings that something is wrong with whoever she isn't with at the time. In other words, where the beginning is slow-paced, the ending is rather rushed, leaving a rather abrupt ending.
It's readable for anyone who already knows the story. And I'm pretty sure that you can fill in the gaps anyway. But as a picture book--a stand-alone picture book--the story is lacking in pacing and arc. And I'm not even sure we get to know the characters well enough to care about what is happening.
On the other hand, I absolutely adored the illustrations. I love the plain triangle-shape to the trees, and the soft focus and pastel color scheme. I felt like these illustrations could fit right in with a classic Disney animation (even though this book is not related to Disney). Bonus: our book was from Barnes and Noble and their edition has lovely stickers at the back.
Rating: I'd borrow this version of Beauty and the Beast to admire the pictures. But, I already bought it for Little Lion. Let's see what her verdict is.
Little Lion Review: I like that it was a different story but the same story. I love how it's Beauty and the Beast with the same story but re-told in a different way than you think it would be. Buy it!
Ages: Preschool kid on up. Or early 3 year old if they love the princess or fairy tale stories.