As I am reading and re-reading so many of these wonderful Caldecott books, I am struck anew that children’s book illustrators fill the role that fine artists have played though the years. When we look at early Flemish paintings by Van Eycks and Bruegel of women making candles or lace, we are given a glimpse into a time that is long gone. We would have no idea of the way people lived without these paintings. Looking at early Caldecott winners also takes us back into an era that is no longer accessible other than through its representations.
Cinderella, illustrated by Charles Perraut, is a book that, these days, would only be published in a cheap paperback version with generic Disney illustrations. The idea of a ‘good girl’ obediently serving her family while waiting for her prince charming is an idea that has become hopelessly outmoded. Any teacher reading this book to students would, I imagine, receive many phone calls from parents and school administrators alike decrying this out of date and anti-feminist tale. I use the comparison to early Flemish artwork to the illustrations in Cinderella because they are both completely confident in the importance of these ‘womens’ roles’, imbuing these tasks not with disdain or a desire to ‘get on to the next thing’, but with dignity and respect. The illustrations in this book are lovely – soft watercolors in light pastels, without any hard lines. The fairy tale element of the story is conveyed perfectly by the illustrations. In terms of appealing to kids today, I think that the images absolutely would still be appealing. Additionally, this particular version of Cinderella includes those who wronged Cinderella asking for forgiveness,, and being granted that forgiveness. Qualities of graciousness and forgiveness will, I sincerely hope, never become “out of style”. The illustrations in Cinderella, like the Flemish works, do certainly harken back to a softer, less strident time, which in my opinion, makes them both examples of good art. Good art not only gives us a window into a period that we can no longer see in our everyday lives, but causes us to pause, observe and contemplate what the lives were like for the people represented in those images. This book would lend itself well to a story time for children ages 3-5.
Perraut, Charles (1999). Cinderella. Zurich, North South.
From the plump pumpkins on the endpapers, to the shifty-eyed stepmother and Cinderella’s vibrant ball gown, Koopmans’ delicate watercolors provide yet another visual rendering of the familiar tale. Bell’s smooth translation follows the traditional story. As Cinderella rides to the palace, her coach radiates light, and Cinderella herself is a blaze of color in her vibrant yellow gown in the brightly lit ballroom. The art lacks Marcia Brown’s strong line, Diane Goode’s distinctive facial expressions, James Marshall’s rumpled goofiness, and Susan Jeffers’ graceful elegance, but it is unusual in one respect. Instead of a maidenly Cinderella and manly prince, both protagonists are portrayed as prepubescent children. This unusual interpretation, which will charm some and disturb others, is best suited for larger collections.
Booklist Review [Review of the book Cinderella]. Retreived from http://www.amazon.com/dp/0735814864/ref=rdr_ext_tmb.
High-school art students are the likely audience for these handsome new picture-book editions. The mostly straightforward text veers into the archaic and convoluted in parts: “Cinderella, would you not be glad to go to the ball?” ask the stepsisters. “You only jeer me; it is not for such as I am to go thither,” she replies. It is both volumes’ artwork that is noteworthy. Roberto Innocenti setsCinderella in the 1920s, illustrating the clothes, cars, households, and boozy decadence of the era in intricate spreads. High-school students reading The Great Gatsby or looking for visual representations of the flapper era will pore over these pages. Etienne Delessert’s Beauty takes a more symbolic approach. A fairly representational blond Beauty and Georgia O’Keefe-like flowers blend with startling compositions of abstracted claws and toothy snouts representing the beast. For older design students, both titles offer intriguing examples of how such familiar material can be visually reinterpreted.
Engberg, Gillian. Cinderella by Charles Perraut. Retrieved from http://booklistonline.com/Cinderella-Charles-Perrault/pid=608421.