Eight familiar tales decked out in sumptuous visual finery.
The contents are a mixed bag of retold Aesop, Andersen, and Anonymous, plus a much-abridged version of “Beauty and the Beast” credited to Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Like Gustafson’s similarly large-format Classic Fairy Tales (2003) and Classic Bedtime Stories (2014), the focus is on elegant styling and luxuriant detail—in the illustrations, at least. Though the typeface is ornate and attractive on the generously margined pages, the stories are recast in unaffected language, sometimes even informally: the Ugly Duckling is “sort of a gray color,” and his hatchling nestmates peep, “Look at the big one. He’s goofy-looking!” Likewise, when the Little Red Hen asks “Now, who will help me eat the bread?” and gets a chorus of “I will!” she responds, “Well, I wouldn’t count on it!” In the paintings, most of the figures go about in European peasant or Renaissance fancy dress, but even unclothed barnyard fowl are splendidly turned out. “Beauty” takes place, mostly, in sumptuous candlelit surroundings as is customary, and aside from being a pug, “The Emperor Who Had No Clothes” resembles Louis XIV. Dogs and other common animals, most but not all anthropomorphically posed, make up most of the cast in five entries; the humans in three others and glimpsed elsewhere all seem to be white.
The art may draw more attention than the stories, but it’s agreeable fare for sharing on a lap. (source note) (Illustrated folk tales. 5-7)