Top critical review
163 people found this helpful
"Original" art? Ha!
on January 10, 2003
I was so thrilled to get this book as a gift, especially since it includes the long out-of-print "Babar and Zephir." When I began to leaf through it, being very familiar with the older editions, I grew sicker with every page. Jean de Brunhoff's stunning artwork has been absolutely destroyed.
Do you know how you feel when watching an old black-and-white movie that you have long loved which has been "colorized"? Yes, your favorite golden age actress now has pink skin, fucshia lips too big for her face and what color are her eyes supposed to be, exactly? The Babar art has been colorized in the most grotesque and garish sense of the word--which is really horrid when you consider that most of Brunhoff's original illustrations were already in color to begin with. Random House has decided, apparently, that Brunhoff's colors are not bright enough. Where Brunhoff shaded, Random House has plastered one uniform cartoonish shade from line to line. Babar's green suit ranges from merely loud green to splitting-headache green. The suit which he wears while playing trumpet in the circus defies description. Suffice it to say it is very blue and very red.
The beautiful scene in which the Celesteville residents bring gifts to infants Pom, Flora, and Alexander has lost its pastoral sweetness and is positively grotesque. The babies lie in their pram, which looks as though my kindergartener re-outlined it in black magic marker, under glaring green palms and flowers with a turquoise blanket scarcely dimmer than the book's cover (see above), while royal blue butterflies flit nearby. Babar is standing in a suit that is (if possible) even greener than the greenery directly behind him. A uniformly orange cow and dromedary are in the reception line. Think Fisher Price.
Does your child really need to know that the mermaid Eleanore's sisters are peeking out of the water when Zephir captures Eleanore? Due to the paint job the sea has suffered, you may need to point this out, as Brunhoff's few lines are no longer recognizable as the tops of mermaid heads. Somebody overdid the brown on the faces of General Huc and Colonel Aristobald, these brave and clever monkeys no longer have visible eyes, mouths, or hairlines.
The subtlety, the grace, the old-world patina of the gorgeous Babar art is gone. In its place, we have. . .well, they do say that bright colors are good for babies' development.
I want to cry.