cover image Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast

Jan Brett. Clarion Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-89919-497-4

A single peacock feather, its delicate beauty rendered in meticulous detail, sets the tone for this sumptuous retelling of a classic fairy tale. The story is a familiar one, with true love triumphing over a wicked enchantment in the end (the moral, of course, is ``never judge a book by its cover''). But the central attraction is the illustrations. Brett's images glide by in a kaleidoscope of luminous color: iridescent blues and greens flow from page to page, entwined with the radiant shades of Beauty's own symbol, the rose. Brett, whose trademark is her careful detail, leaves hidden clues for sharp-eyed readers that hint at the Beast's secret--such as mottoed tapestries and glimpses of the meddlesome fairy herself, decked out naturally enough as a peacock butterfly. But it's the recurring motif of the peacock, itself a symbol of vanity and surface appearances, that ties the threads of the story together. It's a brilliant marriage of artwork and text; once again Brett proves herself a contemporary illustrator of consummate skill. Ages 6-12. (Sept.)