Customer Reviews: Beauty and the Beast
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4.8 out of 5 stars
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on December 7, 2006
THis book is nothing short of spectacular. I read it to my nine year old (who's well into reading her own novels by now) and we both were moved to tears -- not a regular occurence in this household. Max Eilenberg's retelling of the classic tale is dark and emotional and very moving, and Angela Barrett's illustrations are nothing short of breathtaking. Can't recommend this highly enough for 6-10s. So different from all the jazzy tongue in cheek 'aren't we cool' books out there. This is the real thing.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon March 20, 2010
Thank you Angela Barrett, for reminding me why you are one of my favorite children's illustrators of all time. With delicate figures, moody scenery, exquisite detail, striking composition, and a muted though rich palette of colors, this may well be the quintessential picture book version of "Beauty and the Beast." Seriously, there aren't enough adjectives in the world to describe how good this lady is.

Max Eilenberg provides the narrative, basing it on the traditional French fairytale "Le Belle et le Bette" by Charles Perrault, concerning a merchant with three daughters who looses his fortune, takes a forbidden rose from a magical garden, and finds himself forced to give up his youngest daughter Beauty to the terrible Beast in repayment for his theft.

Beauty agrees to dwell in the Beast's magnificent castle, and even comes to enjoy his company despite his hideous visage, but is troubled by his marriage proposals every night: she does not love him, and her constant denials are a source of constant pain to the Beast. When she begs to return home to see her father, the Beast gives her permission to go - provided she keeps her promise to return within the week.

Of course, you already know how it ends, but Eilenburg manages to keep the story fresh and gives the story a few little personal touches. Beauty's family name is "Fortune" and her father Mr Fortune loves to show pictures of his daughters to anyone who cares to listen (and some who don't!) Beauty's sisters Hermione and Gertrude are nasty pieces of work in this particular version, begging Beauty to delay her departure in the hopes that she'll be eaten by the Beast on her return. Yikes!

He uses elegant but thankfully simple prose, not excessive describing everything, but allowing Barrett to speak with her pictures. Another innovation (though I've seen it done elsewhere, as in Cameron Dokey's Belle) is to set the story in the nineteenth century, when "money, convention and appearance meant perhaps even more than they do now."

But of course it's Angela Barrett's romantic and ornate illustrations that make this particular retelling so magical. Barrett takes us from the brightness and clutter of the Fortunes' original home, to the sparseness and darkness of their little cottage, and finally to the gorgeous castle where the Beast resides. The dining room for example, is hung with tapestries of a dark forest, parted at intervals to reveal windows and the stars outside, and the vast floor is covered with candlesticks hewn in the shapes of strange mystical creatures. Behind the walls, we can see the Beast watching Beauty and her father through a peephole. Later, Beauty goes exploring the gardens, finding hedge mazes, boat houses, pagodas, orchards and fountains, all so large in scope and size that Beauty seems miniscule by comparison, as does the Beast, whose figure can be seen watching her from afar.

As for our leads, Beauty has kindness and intelligent in her pretty face, and the Beast is truly a spectacle! Somewhere between a giant cat and a bear, this Beast also has a long prehensile tail and long horn-like ears that give him a rather demonic aspect. Bassett can portray him as either domineering or pitiable, but he's always otherworldly and unnerving.

Also worth noting is the creative way in which the pictures are presented; sometimes as full double-spreads, often as small borderless vignettes that the text is shaped around. There is an especially evocative series of panels that show Mr Fortune's sad return home. We see his tiny black figure in the distance through the window at the white landscape of snow; in each panel he grows closer and closer, till we can see the fateful red rose hidden within the folds of his waistcoat.

If there is a slight flaw, it's that the text is lengthy and the pictures are often small, relegated to borders or panels when they should dominate. Often we get double-spreads of text which may test the patience of very young readers - but then, who wants to waste a book like this on children! Girls will love the beauty of the gowns and gardens, boys will love the danger and energy of the Beast, adults will appreciate the mystery and atmosphere that each picture creates. This is certainly one of the best renditions of this particular fairytale out there, with illustrations that deserve to be absorbed and enjoyed for a long time.
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on June 9, 2013
Recently, acquaintances from England, Anthony and Sue Dunsany, decided to come on a tour this Spring to America with their son Edward now nineteen, their sixteen year-old daughter Lucia and their youngest, Lirazel, a pretty girl of eight who resembles her mother both in looks and character, with large grey pensive eyes, long auburn hair and a beautiful serene smile. On a sunny mild day in New York, plans were made to visit some of the major museums during their week in the city, and young Lirazel decided that she would like to keep me company at home until we all met up again for an early dinner on the town.

She has a great affinity for reading and was shortly inspecting my bookshelves while I was addressing some correspondence. Setting my pen aside for a moment, I asked her what would please her the most and she replied 'a classic fairy tale'. There are so many, and perhaps you have read them all, but Lizarel quietly asked if I had a copy of Beauty and the Beast. It's my all-time favorite, she explained, and I never get tired of it. You know I have always felt a bit sorry for the beast in the story and Beauty is not only brave, but she is kind to him in the end when she realizes that he loves her and would like her to stay with him so that he will never be unhappy, lonely or mean again. This made me smile because I remembered how I was always a little disappointed when the Beast turned into a prince and that good looks are not the most important things in the world.

So I pulled out a newer version of this great tale by the author Max Eilenberg, illustrated by the beautiful artwork of Angela Barrett. In 2006 the two of them had produced one of the most unusual and breathtaking adaptations of Beauty, and Angela Barret won The Kate Greenaway Medal Award when it was published. Handing it to Lirazel, I mentioned that she might find it quite different, and she promised to give me her best opinion after curling up on the sofa and settling down for a comfortable read.

It will be interesting to hear what she has to say, I thought, having placed the book away after reading it a few years ago. I remembered it so vividly because towards the end, there is a large picture without any text when Beauty is lying in an isolated forest in the heavy snow with her arms around her Beast, and the pity and desolation of it all evokes the most powerful and sorrowful emotions that an animal lover might feel on the loss of their pet.

The author Max Eilenberg was to say, and I quote: 'Beauty and the Beast is a strange, magical story about learning to love, but what also makes it fascinating is that it is also about fear and loss'. He decided to place the setting in the nineteenth century when money, convention and appearance mattered perhaps even more than today, and see what happens when a family loses everything.

But, more important, what did young Lirazel think? 'It's beautiful and funny and sad but happy. I liked the Beast because he looks like a huge neglected wolf-like creature with large fangs who is hungry and thin, and doesn't wear a suit on, or any rings, or live in a castle but a beautiful magical candle-lit house and when he turns into a prince, he's not perfect in looks, and Beauty is kind of pleased that he is not a picture-book prince the way she had always imagined when she was a child. And at the end she tells him that 'I loved you anyway, just the way you were'.

And, what about Mr. Fortune, Beauty's father, an impoverished merchant who lost everything? He is a happy man again and delighted with his son-in-law and at last hearing, he is still showing the wedding album of his daughter's wedding to any kind person who wishes to see and hear about it. 'Always knew she'd make an excellent match. Best son-in-law you could wish for. Fabulous gardener and brilliant with his roses', he always likes to say.

For Shannon, the girl out of a fairy tale, from a friend thinking of you on this beautiful Spring day.
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on September 20, 2014
The story is beautifully, classily told by Mr Eilenberg, even if he does use the occasional English idiom with which Americans may not be familiar (both he and the illustrator are English). The writing is pacy, emotive, and sincere in the best possible way. The language is not moon-june-spoon though it is certainly clear -- delivering on the publisher's promise that this is a tale for anybody (of the romantic bent). There is also a dry sense of humour, just enough, in the right places. Bravo, Mr Eilenberg!

As for the paintings: they are intelligent, and most are unspeakably gorgeous, and they illustrate the scenes and emotions with great imaginative flair and taste. The artist has a sensitive eye for beauty and pathos, which comes out in the delicate colouring, the scene-design, and the facial or body expressions of the characters. Angela Barrett is a rare and special artist. I shall be looking out for whatever she does that is still in print.

Why is <i>this</i> book not in print? It certainly lacks for nothing. Perhaps it is too good.
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on March 3, 2016
Very beautiful story. This is not a short book, this is better used for older children. The story is longer, with more detail and dialogue.
I thoroughly enjoy the character development and individuality. Many versions of this classic tale use the same vague character design that doesn't go much beyond "Beauty is nice". I enjoy seeing more into the characters in this story, including Beauty's family and the beast as well.
The illustrations are equally beautiful. The thorough depictions of the atmosphere and background are well done and well integrated with the characters, so the picture feels seamless rather than a person in front of a background.
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on May 25, 2007
As usual, it is the elegant, spare and painterly drawings that make the books illustrated by Angela Barrett. They border on the surreal. My only small "complaint" is that there aren't enough full or two-page spreads featuring her illustrations! It seemed a lot of them were relegated to the borders. But, the book is definitely worth picking up if you are a fan of hers, or a fan of beautifully illustrated children's books.
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on October 5, 2013
Google “Beauty and the Beast”, then go to Images in the menu bar , and what do you find? An onslaught---screen after screen--- of images from the Disney movie and book: the cartoon girl and Beast. Scary!
It’s not that I was never a Disney fan---in my pre-teen years I wanted to see all of the Disney movies, and “Snow White” was my favorite. I looked forward to them, I had to have the books, the coloring books. the peanut-butter jar lids. It was all great fun---visual ice cream.
But as I grew older I also came to love the original versions of those stories and the many different illustrations. Over the years Disney ramped up the commercialization of its fairy tale movies, until they have all but submerged the “competition,” which is of course the intention. If it were possible, Disney would like to own the copyright to these stories, which by rights are cultural property: they belong to everyone. Yet because of Disney, many young readers may know nothing else. And there is another world of fairy tales to be savored: one that is altogether darker, richer, more complex and more mysterious....and more sensuous.
Recently I was delighted to discover the work of British illustrator Angela Barrett. Her illustrations for Max Eilenberg’s lively retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” are pure magic--her delicate, detailed visions perfectly enhance this classic tale.
The images are often breath-taking: the frontispiece, which depicts the turrets of Beast’s palace against a pale sky; a night scene---a full page bleed--- in which Beauty’s father, a silhouette on horseback in a snowy landscape, has come upon the Beast’s magnificent palace, ablaze with lights. There is also the heart-wrenching twilight scene of Beauty, in a silvery gown, flinging herself upon the Beast as he lies stretched out in the snow, dying of unrequited love.
There are numerous clever “montages” showing Beauty’s life in the palace, giving the reader a feeling for the passage of time. Barrett has said that she chose to set her illustrations in the 1860s, when women’s fashions were the most exaggerated : dresses with tight bodices, cinched waists and enormous bustles. This works exceptionally well for a story that is in essence about a young woman whose freedom has been compromised by love and a powerful sense of duty.
With remarkable sensitivity, Barrett creates an ugly yet profoundly touching Beast: a jolie laid" of sorts: tall and stooped as if burdened with the sorrow of his condition, and his longing for true love.
Oh, how far from Disney this is! There is nothing slick or commercialized in Barrett’s version. If you love this story, this is a book to own and treasure. Barrett is one of those rare illustrators whose ability to convey emotional depth matches her extraordinary artistic gifts.
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on May 29, 2015
This is a beautiful book. The story is one that all most everyone knows, but it is the illustrations that grab your emotions. The illustrations are by Angela Barrett. My favorite is the one where Beauty finds the Beast lying down dying by a frozen river. She falls upon him in her beautiful dress and hugs him tight. I have tears in my eyes as I write this. The book is both for adults and children alike. I would recommend this book to everyone.
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on December 13, 2007
I just adore this book. I took one look at the cover and just fell in love. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, and the storytelling is great. I'm 21 years old, but after flipping through this book for a couple second, i knew i had to have it! I make everyone I know read it hehehe
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on August 15, 2014
This book is exquisite. Angela Barrett is one of England's best illustrators. Her work is delicate and dreamlike, but never cloying. I've given this book many times as a baby shower gift to nieces and friends and it has always been loved. No, it's not Disney, but shouldn't children and fairy tale loving adults have a chance to see a timeless story interpreted by someone who isn't a cartoonist?
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