Ahh, fairy tales. Grimm, Lang, Andersen, d'Aulnoy, Perrault. The first stories we are ever told. For me, nothing can beat a beautiful retelling of a classic fairy tale.
(Ah-hem. Nothing save Pride & Prejudice. And Harry Potter. These two items are non-negotiable in my universe.)
In the last two years, there have been a few new fairy tale picture books that I've fallen in love with. Here they are, in order from "Wow, that's great" to "Holy crap, I worship you."
Number Three: Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Caralyn & Mark Buehner
A few years ago, the Buehners made one of my favorite winter picture books, Snowmen at Night. The illustrations were funny and charming and popped right off the page. Their latest is the best version of this tale I've ever seen. This was never one of my favorite stories - Goldilocks is such a freaking brat - but the Buehners have managed to turn her into . . . okay, she's still a freaking brat. But at least this shows honesty.
Their Goldilocks is a ridiculous, over-sugared, bug-eyed, jump-roping nincompoop. Awesome. The illustrations are hilarious (the picture of her disappearing into Mama Bear's overstuffed chair is great) and the pace and language of the text is, in the infamous words of Baby Bear, "just right."
Number Two: Beauty and the Beast written by Max Eilenberg, illustrated by Angela Barrett
This is a longer, slightly sinister picture book made for older readers. Set in the nineteenth century, the illustrations are gorgeous and minutely detailed in their depiction of luxury, nature, fear, joy, and despair. Beast is a beautiful, terrifying, curious, wolfish creature and the spread of Beauty weeping over his body in the snow is breathtaking. I loved this book. The text is sly and witty and heartbreaking. (And more adjectives. I seem to be using a lot of them.) I cannot rave enough about it.
Number One: Cinderella by Barbara McClintock
This book made me check out every single thing Barbara McClintock had ever illustrated. I'm not kidding. Holy cupcakes! This one is set in the era of Versailles and Louis XIV. Like Barrett's illustrations in Beauty and the Beast, McClintock is a master of detail. I spent DAYS pouring over the massive dresses and towering wigs and tiny shoes and golden rooms.
I would have killed for this book as a child.
The tone of this retelling is gentle (no feet-hacking here) and appropriate for all ages. Especially adults who like to play dress up.
Now get thee to a library!