Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book

Book review by
Joly Herman, Common Sense Media
Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book Book Poster Image
Belle gets lured into book in dark but enchanting spin-off.

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age 8+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Love of literature is central to this story. Belle is a book lover who can quote entire passages of Shakespeare and does so to win a challenge with a famous member of the theater. Belle quotes from The Faerie Queene, Hamlet, and the myth of Androcoles and refers to other Greek myths (Persephone and Hades). A Shakespearean sonnet is read aloud. The Beast translates text from Greek, working on a piece from Epictetus ("Difficulties are things that show people what they are"), which plays a role in the moral of the story.

Positive Messages

It's important to live your own life as you create it, not as someone imagines it for you. Difficulties can teach you values. Home is all the people, places, and things that you love. Though love is sometimes messy, it's the most important thing in the world. Be the author of your own story. Love people exactly the way they are.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Belle's compassion for other people's suffering is admirable. She learns to love difficult people, but she also learns to look beyond the beautiful facade of things to value imperfection in others.

Violence

Death and Love play a game of chess where players die actual deaths. Death is a threatening, sinister character who tricks, cheats, and weaves elaborate lies. The Beast throws tantrums in which he breaks things and threatens to hurt people. The characters around him -- including Belle -- walk on eggshells, expecting him to explode at any moment. Some scenes in the book are spooky and surprising, especially when Belle finds the truth behind Nevermore and zombie-like dolls and marionettes chase her.

Sex

Belle is attracted to Henri, who asks her for her heart. The Beast longs for Belle to love him, too. Lots of longing looks and sighs, but no kissing or physical contact.

Language
Consumerism

Since this book is an adjunct to the Disney movie, it is, at it's core, a promotional piece.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Bottles of champagne stand in "sterling wine coolers" on tables at a party.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Jennifer Donnelly's well-written fantasy novel Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book plays off Disney's 2017 live-action Beauty and the Beast movie. It's a gothic tale in which Belle is caught in a scheme devised by a character named Death, who places a deadly bet with her sister, Love, that Belle will abandon the Beast. Death conjures a living book, utterly entrancing Belle, luring her closer to her own demise. Elements of Death's plot are creepy and graphic, such as zombie marionettes who try to trap Belle. The Beast's tantrums, in which he breaks things, threatens to hurt people, and abandons Belle or traps her, are frightening. Belle does stand up for herself, but her circumstances really don't lend her much support, safety, or freedom.

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What's the story?

In BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: LOST IN A BOOK, Love and Death, two sisters who are eternally at odds, make a wager that Belle will abandon the Beast before the enchanted spell in his castle can be dissolved. Defying her oath not to cheat, Death creates a magical book to draw Belle closer to her so that she might win the bet. Belle loves to read and has been given the keys to the Beast's extensive library. All the characters from the movie (Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, and Chip -- the servants-turned-household items) treat her lovingly as she passes her days in captivity. But Belle is troubled by the Beast's withdrawn and quick-to-anger behavior. She longs for a different life. The magical book might just offer her the perfect escape.

Is it any good?

Well-crafted and enchanting, this Disney confection offers a fascinating escape with some spooky twists. Lost in a Book lets fans of the Beauty and the Beast movies delve further into Belle's magical world. This book-within-a-book reads a lot like a Disney movie feels, with its descriptive fantasy world patterned in colorful prose. The well-read observer (bookworm alert!) will recognize the Shakespeare quotes with as much glee as Belle recites them. Someone new to Shakespeare, Spenser, and various Greek myths, might be encouraged to seek out these literary gems, if only to get closer to Belle, who is so bookish and smart that she takes on more depth in this depiction.

As book-smart as she is, Belle has difficulty dealing with the Beast's tantrums. She stands up to him and encourages him to laugh at himself, but is this cycle of bad behavior and reconciliation a healthy one? Lessons of compassion and courage are one thing, but getting into a relationship with someone who lashes out and can't take responsibility for unacceptable behavior is another. This book's weakness is the Beast's weakness; it's not sure how to solve the tantrum issue. But it does offer a lovely escape, which is exactly the point.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how anger is portrayed in Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book. Belle gets caught up in the Beast's tantrums and isn't always safe around him. Do you have anyone in your life like that? How do you set boundaries to feel safe? 

  • Why do fairy tales have charming villains? 

  • What does Belle learn about trust in this story?

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