Title: Little Golden Book Fairy Tale Favorites
Publisher: Golden Books
Authors: The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen
Illustrators: Gordon Laite and Sheilah Beckett
Once upon a time, twelve princesses danced, eleven princes flew the sky as wild swans, a little girl grew to adulthood within the confines of an isolated tower, a kind girl received an unusual gift from a fairy, and a dutiful daughter fulfilled her father’s thoughtless promise to a horrible beast ….
The tales are well-known, with iterations found in the lore of cultures all over the world. Five are collected here — The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Wild Swans, Rapunzel, Toads and Diamonds, and Beauty and the Beast — reprinted from older editions which are long out of print and difficult to find. Considering that Laite and Beckett are two of my favorite illustrators, I was thrilled to find so many of their stories collected into a single, hardcover volume.
No translators are listed for these stories, but the tales are well told; the language is simple and straightforward, flowing smoothly, making the stories ideal for reading out loud. For example, “Once there lived a good man and his wife. Near their house was a beautiful garden. But they did not dare go into it because it belonged to a terrible witch.” And, “They hurried down another avenue, where the trees had leaves of brightest gold, and up a third, where the leaves were diamonds. The soldier broke a twig from each — crack, crack!”
The real attraction for me, though, is the illustrations. Laite’s style is sketchy, scratchy, and somber. Dark blues, greens, and purples wash across the page, creating the impression of deep, brooding forests and cavernous, haunted castles. Bright splashes of color draw the eye to the focus of each tale: Rapunzel in her flowing orange gown, Beauty with her bright red hair, Elisa with her tall white wimple.
Beckett’s illustrations for The Twelve Dancing Princesses are a candied, pastel feast. King and peasants like are ruddy-cheeked and plump. The princesses are a rainbow in their ball gowns; the most striking image of the collection shows them walking through the underground forest, the eldest in red-orange, the youngest in yellow, their sisters’ gowns shading across the spectrum between them from red to purple to blue to green. With their heads turned, their hands extended, their toes pointed, all of the characters appear to be perpetually in motion, dancing across the page.
Little Golden Books Fairy Tale Favorites will make a wonderful addition to any library. Highly recommended to parents, teachers, and librarians, and fairy tale fans everywhere.
[Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer. A complete list of her published work can be found there.]