Sunday, January 20, 2013

Reading:Belle: The Charming Gift by Ellie O'Ryan

Last year I read two Disney Princess chapter books, one story about Belle and another about Ariel.  I really enjoyed the books and know I would have enjoyed them as a kid.  Being a huge Disney fan and a huge Beauty and the Beast fan, I quickly bought the newest book in the story about Belle.  If you read my previous blog reflecting on the books I read in 2012, you will know that I believe that children's books can be just as good and life changing as an adult novel.  Of course, Disney is a huge company that overrates it's princesses (even though I love them to death) and almost dehumanizes them through their merchandise.  However, these books seem to break the mold which I absolutely love and I hope they continue to write Belle books because I can't get enough Beauty and the Beast!
This time Belle's book centers around the story of Belle and the rest of the castle planning a ball for the winter solstice.  While Belle chooses a dress to wear, she thinks she sees a bracelet similar to one her father made her as a child.  After telling her new friends about the bracelet and what it meant to her, she becomes solemn, for she misses her father dearly.  Mrs. Potts and the rest of the gang decide to cheer Belle up by recreating the bracelet to show her that she is welcome in the castle and is apart of their family now.  While the story is very much about Belle and her wish to feel at home, the story is also very much focused on the objects in the castle...if not more focused on than Belle, specifically Chip.  Each object, and the Beast, must make a charm for Belle's bracelet.  Chip decides to help out everyone else with their charms and almost forgets about his own but his friends come to the rescue!
The first thing I want to comment on with this book is the artwork.  Recently, Disney has changed the look of their princesses by giving them more "modern" hairstyles.  Personally, I can't say I like the change very much.  It is just another aspect of dehumanizing the princesses.  Speaking about Belle specifically, I feel like with her new hairstyle she has lost what made her Belle.  She lost her classiness and her personality of a girl who loves to read.  Most of the artwork featured her old hairstyle and it was beautiful artwork.  Even her new hairstyle wasn't all that bad and despite that, the artwork was great.  It's a shame the Beauty and the Beast sequels didn't have animation that was up to par like this books artwork. 
While the story was great and has a great lesson to teach (which I expected), I definitely was disappointed at the lack of Belle and the Beast interaction.  Belle's previous book had much more personality and depth to their relationship while this book mostly kept Belle and their relationship behind the scenes.  I also thought that the Beast was definitely out of character.  But, this is a kids book and being a Disney princess book I think it is safe to say that the author wasn't going for much character development or plot development.  It was written purely for the franchise and as a tool for learning life's moral lessons.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable read.  The story was very magical and the artwork was gorgeous but I wish there would have been more of a focus on Belle and the Beast's relationship instead of having Belle behind the scenes.  I will give this book 4 out of 5 stars.  If only these books were made into a Beauty and the Beast sequel (or mid-quel).  Anything is better than Belle's Enchanted Tales.  That was a train wreck!

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