cover image Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast

, , illus. by Angela Barrett. . Candlewick, $17.99 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-3160-4

In this new version of the classic, florid prose threatens to overpower Barrett's delicate watercolors. Eilenberg (Squeak's Good Idea ) follows the lines of the 18th-century original, jazzing up the story with a pompous Briton for Beauty's father, Mr. Fortune ("Fortune by name, fortune by nature," is a favorite saying of his), two cruel sisters named Hermione and Gertrude, and plenty of velvety vocabulary ("red roses of the most exquisite loveliness and perfection"). Yet the magic of the retelling belongs to Barrett (Joan of Arc ). Although often relegated to the borders of the page to make way for the lengthy text, each of the artist's vignettes offers viewers a small assortment of delicacies, like a box of petit fours , as Beauty whiles away her days in a succession of beautifully appointed rooms, or wanders through gardens of fantastic topiary. Beast's overpowering stature conveys his threat; but his sleek, graceful appearance never becomes repulsive. While the purple prose may embarrass youngsters ("She had found love and lost it, and it was so much more than she had ever imagined, and the pain was unbearable"), Barrett tempers the passion of the lovers' final kiss with a bored housecat cleaning itself at their feet. Writer and artist are both at their best in the luxury of the Beast's palace. Collectors of sumptuous fairy tale editions will not want to miss this one. Ages 6-10. (Dec.)