Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Two Fearsome Fairy Tales from France

Two Fearsome Fairy Tales from France retold by Adele Geras, illustrated by Fiona McDonald (Christmas Press)
HB RRP$19.99
ISBN 9780992283841
Reviewed by Dianne Bates

The fly pages of this new book by Australian publisher Christmas Press are wonderful; in black and white they show a scene which feels almost as though it is going to suck you into the story to come. 

The first story is the English author’s retelling of the well-known tale, ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ Like most re-tellings, the language is sparse, old-fashioned and straight-forward, relating how a merchant father promises his youngest and most beautiful daughter to a beast set on revenge. Belle is aghast when she first sets eyes upon the beast and declines his many offers of marriage. There is, of course, a twist at the end of the tale and when Belle finally agrees to a betrothal, she releases a spell cast by a wicked fairy.

The story of Bluebeard is the second story in this lavishly illustrated book with all its text set in illustrated frames and with full-page coloured pictures and occasional black and white sketches. Like the beast in the first story, Bluebird has a dreadful appearance – and a young woman, in this case his (unnamed) Bride. ‘His beard was of a dark blue as deep as oceans and flowed from his chin to his waist like a tumbling waterfall of hair. But he dazzled her with gifts and soothed her with kind words.’ On the eve of his departure on business, Bluebird gives his bride the keys to the palace saying that one room is not to be unlocked ‘if you value your life.’

Does the young woman use the silver key? Of course! And what she finds is horrifying. This sets in chain a series of consequences and frantic actions. 

This story was, for this reviewer, much less predictable than the first.
This is another handsome production from Christmas Press joining other retold tales such as Two Tales of Twins from Ancient Greece and Rome (Ursula Dubosarsky) and Two Trickster Tales from Russia (Sophie Masson). Its appeal would be for children aged 9+ years.

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