Miss M’s absolutely favorite princess may be Snow White, but her absolutely favorite fairy tale book is Barbara McClintock’s Cinderella (a bargain for a dollar at a used store; little did I know how much she would love it). Filled with delicate illustrations and replete with details, this gentler Cinderella story ends with her family being sorry for how they treated her and her forgiving them all (and also finding suitable noblemen for her stepsisters to wed). Thanks to this book the phrase, “ran like a startled deer” entered Miss M’s vocabulary.
Jan Brett’s Beauty and the Beast is a feast for the eyes, featuring exotic animals as the Beast’s bespelled servants. Miss M and I have spent a long time poring over the pages; there is so much to discover in the pictures themselves. Luscious and courtly.
We recently discovered Trina Schart Hyman’s illustrated retellings of Snow White and The Sleeping Beauty. These are darker, featuring medieval costumes and architecture in a palette of earth colors. Be warned that the text of Snow White references cannibalism (the Queen eats what she believes are Snow White’s liver and heart) and death by unusual punishment (being forced to dance in red-hot shoes), both of which I smoothly edited out. The Sleeping Beauty also has one rather grim double-spread of illustrations depicting skeletons and corpses of young men pierced by thorns (I hurried past that one because it bothered me). From an adult perspective, these illustrations feel truer to the original stories, evoking dark magics, wild forests and stone castles. The princesses also come across as more real than your usual sanctified versions; Snow White is childlike in her fear, innocence and exuberance and Briar Rose is downright mischievous and outgoing.
Miss M. also enjoyed Paul Zelinsky’s Rapunzel, which sets the story in sun-drenched Renaissance Italy. I love the architectural details of this one.
Moving on from traditional princesses (who are a tad too passive and victimized for my tastes), we have another one of Miss M. favorites: The Paper Bag Princess. After her castle is smashed and her princessy clothes burned by a dragon, Princess Elizabeth dons a paper bag and sets off after him to rescue her fiance, the proper Prince Ronald. The puffed-up-with-pride dragon is no match for the clever princess.
In Snow Princess by Susan Paradis, a young girl playing in the snow imagines she is a royal princess awaiting the return of her father, the king. Beautiful beautiful pictures of ice castles, a court of animals, and the girl’s princess alter ego watching for her father on a magnificent white horse and leading him home on a dragon. Just lovely.
Any other fairy tale picture books that you’ve enjoyed?