cover image Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast

H. Chuku Lee, illus. by Pat Cummings. HarperCollins/Amistad, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-688-14819-5

The husband-and-wife duo of Lee (making his picture book debut) and Cummings (Clean Your Room, Harvey Moon!) set their retelling in an unnamed part of Africa, reimagining the story’s castle and surroundings in a distinctly African idiom. Beauty’s hair is braided in cornrows and decorated with shells and beads; the Beast, pictured with thick brown fur and a wild mane of hair, has rows of lines painted on his face and across his hairy nose. The story, though, is largely unchanged. Beauty narrates, repeating one sentence like an incantation. The Beast is generous and the castle lovely, she admits, “But... I could not leave.” She’s saved, as in the traditional version, by admitting that she has grown to love the ugly monster, at which point the sentence changes. “Now,” she says, “I would not leave!” Beauty’s appearance will draw readers of color who long for fairy tale heroines who look more like themselves, and the moment in which it is revealed that the ugly Beast’s true self is a young, handsome African prince is unexpectedly powerful, too. Ages 4–8. (Feb.)