A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which begins with the prince suffering for misdeeds and being transformed into a lion. His intentions were good, and he does go on to think deeply about his actions. There is some violence as well as sexual references, lust, and animal mating. Readers will learn about a variety of traditions and religions. The author defines Persian and Islamic words in the book's back matter.
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What's the story?
When proud Prince Orasmyn of Persia knowingly allows a flawed camel to be sacrificed to Muhammad at the Feast of Sacrifices, a spirit places a curse on him that causes him to live as a lion until a woman loves him. Fleeing from his father's hunting party, he travels first to India and lives there, learning the ways of lions. Eventually he makes his way to France, where he takes over an abandoned castle. There he lives alone, a beast with the mind of a man, until a traveling merchant shelters in his castle during a storm. The man tears a branch off one of the prince's rose bushes, angering the prince into confronting him. The man is terrified, but the prince, seeing an opportunity to lift the curse, demands that the man give up his daughter in exchange for his life. Includes author's note and glossary.
Is it any good?
For those with the patience to get through it, this is a beautifully told tale that brings new understanding to the original. Donna Jo Napoli, who has made something of a specialty of reinterpreting traditional fairy tales in the form of young-adult novels, here tackles a story that seems to fascinate YA authors: Beauty and the Beast. As Napoli explains in a note, her story is based on an 1811 poem by Charles Lamb, which specifies that the Beast was originally a Persian prince. This gives her the opportunity to weave satisfying doses of Persian culture and religious practices into the story, and to contrast them with the practices he finds in France.
The slow pace will not be to the taste of all teens, especially during the prince's wanderings in the first half of the novel. Once he is in France the pace quickens, but even with the inclusion of some bestial violence and sex, this is still more a thoughtful mood piece than an action-adventure, as befits the original story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about fairy tales. How does this retelling of Beauty and the Beast compare to other versions you have read or seen? Why do you think authors are interested in creating new version of these classics? What is powerful about this story and other traditional fairy tales?
This book contains some violence -- including graphic depictions of hunting and butchering. Are violent details easier to handle in a fantasy book like this one?
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