Friday, June 13, 2014

Beauty and the Beast - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

     I was just introduced to this book last weekend and today is the last picture book review before the summer hiatus. Talk about perfect timing for a perfect picture book!
     The underlying story isn't new, but the re-telling transports the story to West Africa with illustrations that will take your breath away.
     TITLE: Beauty and the Beast

     AUTHOR: H. Chuku Lee
     ILLUSTRATOR: Pat Cummings
     PUBLISHER: Amistad (imprint of HarperCollins), 2014
     INTENDED AGE:4 to 8
     THEMES: Fairy tale, unexpected friendship, love
          "Father had to hurry into the city on business, but before he rode off, my older sisters gave him a long list and asked him to buy them all sorts of finery.
           Father asked what I wanted and I said, "A rose." "
     SYNOPSIS: When the Beast threatens to imprison Beauty's father for taking a rose from the Beast's garden, Beauty offers to take her father's place. Over time, Beauty and the Beast become friends but she is still his prisoner. When she is allowed home to visit her sick father, Beauty has to decide whether to fulfill her promise to return to the Beast, knowing that not doing so may kill him.

     WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK: This story is all about the capacity for and the power of love. What better message is there? And this book captures it in a fresh telling. As a disclaimer, the illustrator was my group leader for a recent writing workshop and the book was a gift to all the attendees. But I didn't write this post out of gratitude even though I have plenty of that. I wrote the post because the book is a sensory delight. Beauty's changing hairstyles alone are a treat, but my favorite spread is Beauty looking at her family in her magic mirror, surrounded by sumptuous fabrics, jewels, and perfume bottles while the stone columns and even a tiny knob on an open drawer sport scowling faces while grain of the wood on the side of the dresser forms inlaid eyes squinting her direction. One column has a carved hand projecting from it holding a pitcher! Note: this version of the tale DOES NOT have the character of Gaston (and his death) and is appropriate for the youngest readers. Doing research for this post I also learned that the author and illustrator are husband and wife and that my 12x12 internet Friend Tanja Bauerle saw some of these illustrations in progress and posted the Kirkus review back in February! Small world (and a lucky woman).

     RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES: The most obvious activity for all ages is a discussion of the importance of appearances. Does it matter? Should it? 
     Older readers may want to compare this story to the Disney version. A lot of the online resources relate to the stage productions of Beauty and the Beast. 
     The ESL teaching workshop, ESL, has vocabulary and comprehension worksheets that could be modified to this version.
     You can view the first eight pages of Beauty and the Beast on HarperCollins Web Sampler. Read the Kirkus starred review here
    While not directly on point with this book, I found a fascinating storyteller's website, Beauty and the Beast Storytellers from Ithaca, NY who do school visits. Their teacher's guide relates to the the visual aspects of hearing a storyteller tell this story but some of the questions were thought provoking for all stories.
     The free coloring book pages I found online all use the caucasian Disney version of this story. Same for Beauty and the Beast cakes on Pinterest. If there are multicultural versions out there, let me know so I can link them!
     Find swatches of colorful fabric and dress up as characters from this version of the story. 
This review is part of PPBF (perfect picture book Friday) where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. Along with tons of writing wisdom, she keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. #PPBF 

I will be posting this summer, but no more perfect picture books until fall. Follow me to keep in touch!

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