A brown-skinned Beauty—what a refreshing change!
Cornrows, braids and beads, Afro puffs and twists. No, it’s not an African-American hair magazine; these are some of the hairstyles that Beauty and her sisters sport in Cummings and Lee’s ethnically rich retelling of an old, typically Caucasian favorite. The Beast’s family crest, an intricate figure on the title page that strongly resembles a West African Adinkra symbol, sets the stage for this picture book’s all-black cast of characters. Though Lee recounts the familiar French version in the text, beginning with the cover image, the illustrations affirm the beauty of this lithe girl of African descent and even of her mean-spirited sisters. Cummings’ illustrations convey so much detail that even the pre-transformation Beast seems beautiful…in his own way. Because of these culturally specific visual dynamics, the handsome visage of Beast-turned-prince comes as no surprise. Readers who attend to detail will delight in the Beast’s fierce animal topiaries and in a plethora of beastly faces found in unlikely places such as the backs of chairs, masks hanging on the walls and the cedar chest in Beauty’s room.
This lovely reimagining of an old tale affirms the browning of American’s contemporary young readership. (Picture book. 4-8)