Friday, 4 January 2013

ReadItDaddy's first Book of the Week for 2013 - Beauty and the Beast by Ursula Jones and Sarah Gibb (Orchard Press)

My lovely other half The Strolling Mum first spotted this book on one of our regular visits to our fab indie bookstore Mostly Books and we all fell in love with it more or less instantly. It was high on the wishlist so just before Christmas we made sure this was going to be in Charlotte's stocking. She absolutely loves the Beauty and the Beast Disney treatment, and recently also went to see an astonishingly good stage production of the Broadway musical, so it's really no surprise to find this book becoming our first Book of the Week of 2013.

Sticking to a fairly traditional treatment of the story, Beauty and the Beast tells the tale of a merchant with three beautiful daughters who seeks refuge in a mysterious castle one evening. Making free with the facilities and hospitality, the merchant is entirely unaware that the castle holds a dark secret. A beast is lord and master of the castle, and demands that the merchant pays a terrible price for stealing one of the beast's prize roses to give to his youngest daughter, named Beauty.

The beast is intrigued by Beauty and rather than demand the merchant's life, he asks the man to bring his daughter to the castle so she can take his place instead.

Beauty is charming, intelligent and well read - and instantly wins the Beast over. Rather than kill her as agreed, he holds her captive.

Her family fear her lost forever, and though her (rather shallow and annoying) sisters mourn for a little while, her father is devastated at the loss of his favourite daughter.

A magic mirror in the castle shows Beauty her family day by day, and she watches - grief stricken - as her father wastes away pining for her.

If your only exposure to the Beauty and the Beast story is the Disney treatment, do yourself a massive favour and pick this book up - and treat yourself to a far better version lovingly told and paid homage to by Ursula Jones. Sarah Gibb's haunting and exquisite artwork perfectly accompanies the story, doing away with the over-cute Disney-fied imagery in favour of something that virtually leaps off the page with vibrant colour suffused with cameo-like shadowy scenes. In essence, this is the sort of beautiful book that harks back to an era when brilliant story collections based on the works of Hans Christian Andersen and The Brothers Grimm were often bound together in huge volumes and deliciously illustrated.

Perfect in virtually every way and a very well deserved book of the week.

Charlotte's best bit: Beauty's amazing dresses (including a certain yellow number that Charlotte just fell hopelessly in love with).

Daddy's favourite bit: Luxuriously presented with the sort of artwork that makes your jaw drop.