More Beautiful and Beastly Picturebooks

There are so many picturebooks which retell, or, to be more accurate, re-illustrate (the text varies comparatively little in rather a lot of versions) the story of “Beauty and the Beast.” I couldn’t resist looking at a few more, Cover Wars style, just for the fun of seeing how the different covers frame the tale, imagine beauty, and portray beast.


Edmund Dulac’s version, one of the few on this page that I have read, is sumptuously rendered in an imaginary Arabian Nights style. Beauty, for once, is dark-haired and dark-eyed. Her musical accomplishments, if I recall correctly, are highlighted. The Beast here is refreshingly and truly ugly with goblin-like features, a much harder form to render prematurely appealing than the usual human-animal hybrid.

Beauty and the Beast Boyle

A Renaissance-esque Beauty and a walrus-tusked Beast are, as with Dulac’s cover, framed by a tree and the natural wonders of the castle gardens in Boyle’s version. The penultimate scene of Beauty lamenting the dying Beast is supposed to be the most moving and extraordinary scenes in the story, so it is no wonder that it is often portrayed on covers. Boyle’s illustrations use light on fabric and wonderfully decorated surroundings to contrast Beauty’s fitness for such a realm with the Beast’s almost impenetrably dark fur. Watch also for the detailed backgrounds – out the window behind the two, for instance.

Beauty and the Beast Gerstein

Yellow – most unusual! This Beast makes me think of the Snuffleupagus family, so I don’t see him as a menace, mammoth tusks and bigsheep horns or not. (Does anybody else see the the of his trunk as a fanged skull?) Beauty has a very long neck (almost Director-giraffe-esque, but not as evil). The manor in the background unfortunately on my computer screen looks like an Aztec pyramid, which may be the effect of the yellow and the triangular path leading up to it. It is interesting that this cover shows Beauty and the Beast in such an intimate pose – gazing into the other’s face, hands clasped between them, roses and palace in the background – definitely emphasizing the romance aspect to the story. The extreme contrast in their heights and sizes, however, makes me think of a paternal relationship (or maybe it’s just that the Beast looks like Babar). I’d be curious to see the inside pages to see how it plays out.

Beauty and the Beast Jones and Gibb

The silhouettes, the colours, the poses, and the Beast’s face are strongly reminiscent of the musical theatre version of this story. The Beast here is a GIANT lion-maned, goat-bearded man (satyr, perhaps?) in very tight-fitting clothes indeed. Beauty’s expression I can’t make out; what is curious is that this cover also emphasizes the romantic elements of their relationship rather than Beauty’s initial fear or the Beast’s grotesque appearance, as the Beast appears to be proposing to Beauty, which in Madame de Beaumont’s story is a nightly occurrence after dinner together. The colours of their clothes are strongly gendered, and the reader’s eye is drawn to the Beast, whose colouring contrasts more strongly with the background. I would be interested to see who is presented as the protagonist here, and who changes the most.

Beauty and the Beast McCaughrean and Blythe

Oh, wow. I would read this for the illustrations of the castle and landscape alone. The moonlit scenery, the physical distance between the two, the central feature of Beauty, alone, the looming figure of the Beast cloaked in shadows, the tenuously-arched bridge of stairs between the two, the utter isolation of the two living beings in this landscape, the subtle hints of warm light, are alluringly allusive to the character and states of Beauty and the Beast. A very well-wrought cover; I wish I could find a copy of this version!

  Beauty and the Beast Patience

What a lordly and Prince John-like Beast. I am quite prepared to dislike him. Beauty, in Tudor-esque garb (with shockingly loose black hair) looks innocent and dismayed, foregrounded as a lamb-like victim to this Beast. Whereas the cover immediately above would, I think, appeal to teens and adults as well, this cover is directly aimed at children. Interesting that the Beast looks quite a bit older than Beauty as well as leonine. Despite her larger physical presence on the cover (barely; his body takes up almost as much space), the Beast is definitely in control here. He has a much more dominant pose and facial expression, almost in the manner of the Gothic foreboding-lord-of-the-manor-welcoming-young-female-guest-and-future-victim type scene. It is also interesting that the roses depicted are pink and white, yet Beauty clasps a red rose.

Beauty and the Beast Sabuda

Beauty looks rather vacant and the Beast strongly rat-like. I wonder if he is as evil in the beginning as he looks? The tail which curtails Beauty’s movement, trapping her near to the Beast despite the expansive grounds is sinister, and raises questions of their relationship: is he really this domineering? Is she as passive as she appears? This cover leaves me worried that their relationship is portrayed as an abusive one which ends “happily” with their marriage. What I do like about this cover, however, is the use of colour (yellow roses as well as pink and red; the green gardens and the sky) and the black outlining and shadowing, which has a stained-glass effect. It would be very interesting to see how the pop-up illustrations convey the story, and how much or little text there is.