- Beauty and the Beast by Ursula Jones, ad.
Most of the familiar elements from the classic fairy tale are present in this retelling, from the shallow, jealous sisters to Beauty’s request for a rose to the Beast’s neardeath experience resulting from Beauty’s prolonged home visit. Jones’ iteration, though, manages to be both elegant and casual, with a refreshing sprinkling of humor throughout: “‘Does that mean we’re poor now?’ Beauty asked her father. And all the suitors backed out of the room so fast they jammed in the doorway. ‘Was it something I said?’ Beauty asked.” The text is accessibly written, with shorter sentences and mostly elementary vocabulary putting the tale, despite its length here, within the comprehension of many younger listeners. The theme is also made overt in the dialogue, with the Beauty stating at one point that “some monsters look awful, but inside they are really very kind, and some people look very kind, but inside they are monsters.” Gibbs’ illustrations are effective in their compositions and ornate details, lending enough structure and weight—particularly in the spreads utilizing intricate black silhouettes accented with more minimal color—to balance the candy-colored pastels of the clothing and décor. While Marianna and Mercer Mayer’s Beauty and the Beast (BCCB 12/78) is still hard to beat visually and textually, adults trying to broaden the horizons of kids who stubbornly insist on preferring the ubiquitous Disney princesses will find this title an easier sell and a perfect bridge to a different fairy-tale presentation.