For generations, children have loved the enchanting story of the twelve beautiful princesses and the handsome young lad who solves the mystery of their tattered shoes.
Now Marianna Mayer brings to life all the splendor and romance of this beloved classic, from the dazzling forests Of silver, gold, and diamonds to a twilight palace where the bewitched princesses dance to hypnotic music. And award-winning artist Kinuko Craft add, her own magic: a visual feast of exquisite, jewel-like paintings that sweep across the pages.
Together, Mayer and Craft have created an unforgettable world that readers of all ages will want to return to again and again.
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Marianna Mayer lives in Roxbury, Connecticut.
"I see folktales and myths as humankind's first stories," says Marianna Mayer. "They are a kind of collective dreaming, filled with timeless symbols and images we can all relate to, regardless of age or culture. And, much as an oyster must be disturbed by a grain of sand in order for the pearl to be created, I often choose to retell stories in which I find unresolved fragments that are somehow perplexing to me."
Though widely known as a children's book writer, Marianna Mayer's early education focused on visual art. "It seems to me there was never a time when I didn't want to be an artist, " she says. "I liked to tell stories with pictures and compose music. My sister and I put on plays made up from my stories. And then I decided to start writing a book, at the age of nine." She published her first book at the age of nineteen. After college, she studied painting at the Art Students League in New York City. Her experiences as an artist provided many images that she began to incorporate into writing. Gradually, she shifted to the written word as a medium of expression. She explains, "I began to feel more freedom when using words as my paints and plots as my canvases.
"While in the midst of a writing project, I live so much in my mind that what takes place in my imagination becomes quite real to me. I try to become part of the culture of a particular tale as much as possible. While working on Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave, for example, I read all I could about Russia. What I learned about Slavic mythology helped to deepen my understanding of the story. I listened to Russian music, ate Russian food (which I love!), and tried in other small ways to enter into the essence of that culture."
"My writing is deeply personal. First and foremost I write for the child who still lives within me. Then to the child in others, whether that child resides in a young person or an adult. I'm striving to reach out to that spirit of wonder within us all. The stories I was told as a child, those half-remembered folktales and myths, have become the foundation for what I continue to work on in my books. The sense of hope that books instilled in me as a child saw me through many difficult times. Because of this, I choose characters who face overwhelming odds but triumph through courage and perseverance. Similarly, myth allows a child to believe in his or her own dreams and can instill a boundless hope for the future."
Kinuko Y. Craft has won more than one hundred graphic-arts awards, including five gold medals from the Society of Illustrators. In 2008, she was inducted into their Hall of Fame. Her art has been in print for almost half a century, appearing on the covers of such prestigious publications as Time and Newsweek. Her illustrated books on Greek myths and of classic fairy tales have been published in the United States and other English-language countries, and in Europe, China, and Korea. Says Kirkus Reviews, "Every detail of her work—the flowers by a spring, a red cloak unfurled against a blue sky, moonlight on a tiger's back—is beautifully rendered." Beauty and the Beast is her ninth illustrated book.From School Library Journal:
Grade 2-4-- In this lavishly illustrated but poorly structured retelling of the classic Grimm tale, Mayer retains little of the original, making major and inexplicable changes in the story. Abandoning the direct simplicity of the folk tradition found in Errol Le Cain's version (Penguin, 1981), Mayer fundamentally alters the main characters, making the old soldier a golden-haired youth, the eldest daughter the youngest, and the old crone a mystifying vision of a "regal" woman. She further confuses the plot by introducing several new and unnecessary elements which are never fully developed (a fortune-teller, a "half-forgotten" prophecy), leaving the plot muddled and readers feeling cheated. Mayer's prose contributes to the muddle, relying on long cliched descriptions and an excessive use of adjectives ("the wizened old fortune-teller's eyes burned bright, and her thin voice crooned like a haunting echo"). Overall, the language is too ornate and cumbersome to sustain children's interest or be effective as a read-aloud. Craft's illustrations are much more successful. For the most part, her paintings are rich and luminous, appropriately depicting the romanticized couple in an opulent fairy tale setting. Several are striking in their design and use of light, but a few are disconcertingly flat and garish. Evocative vignettes, placed on nearly every page, elaborate small details of setting or action. While Craft's illustrations make this an attractive addition to folk/fairy tale collections, Mayer's overblown text is inappropriate for both the genre and the intended audience. Libraries with a strong demand for multiple versions of fairy tales may want to purchase this for the illustrations alone, but those owning the Le Cain version can pass it by.
- Linda Boyles, Alachua County Library, Gainesville, Fla.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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