Books play a very important role in Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Not only do they transport Belle away from her quiet village, but also help her bond with the Beast that holds her captive. And a new book from Disney Press helps emphasize the importance of these tomes with Belle's Library.
A more fitting title for this piece would have actually been "Belle's Favorite Quotes," as the book is really a collection of her favorite pieces from some of her favorite books. However, author Brittany Rubiano has really done a tremendous job with the selections and the thoughts that Belle has written down on each one. Readers can actually pick up a bit of French while reading it, as well, since the author sometimes swaps English for French in Belle's musings.
The list of books Belle draws inspiration from are classics, and several of them are even mentioned in the film. These include Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, and Antony and Cleopatra. Other classics include Aesop's Fables, The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, The Odyssey by Homer, and Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift.
What I loved most about Belle's Library is that it's somewhat of a journal for the character. If readers know the story, they will find that early in the book, she is citing quotes about arrogance, venting her frustrations about Gaston. In the middle, her quotes tend to be about ugliness on the inside and outside as well as friends in unusual forms, and by the end her quotes are all about love and seeing the beauty deep inside.
Linda Woolverton, who wrote the screenplay for the original animated classic, provides a forward that is quite engaging. She discusses how as a child, she was not allowed to watch TV and instead filled her world with books. She herself was known to walk and read at the same time while on daily trips to get groceries for her mom. And when Disney explained that a heroine who reads books would be boring, she and Howard Ashman showed how they could stage it to be intriguing and fun.
Before putting the book down, I encourage readers to complete the Appendix. It sheds light on each of the books and collections from which this book sourced its quotes. It also gives background on each author, a synopsis of the story, the page numbers and specific edition readers can seek out for more information and an explanation of why Brittany Rubiano selected it.
I was pleasantly surprised by Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Library. It's a quick and easy read and is also easy to pause and resume at any time (the binding has an attached red ribbon to use as a bookmark). I think readers of all ages who are inspired by the new live action film will appreciate the care and efforts taken with this publication.