Beauty and the Beast by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont

I remember Beauty and the Beast as the first Disney movie video cassette that my father bought for me. I don’t recall how old I was, probably around six or seven years old. Since then, I grew up only knowing that the heroine in the story was Belle and the hero was Beast. Of course, I disliked Gaston but cheered up whenever the enchanted teapots, cups, clocks and candlesticks in the castle made their appearances. Ohh, and I still drool over the enormous library!

So I was enlightened when I read Beauty and the Beast on my Kindle. Jeanne-Marie wrote an abridged version in 1756 and it was later translated into English in 1757. Not bad, they translated fast, didn’t they?

In this story, Beauty is the youngest daughter of a merchant who had three sons and three daughters. Beauty’s two elder sisters were mean and only cared about themselves. They were jealous of Beauty who seemed perfect in every way.

The merchant lost his wealth and the family were forced to move to a farmhouse. A few years later, in the hopes of recovering his wealth, the merchant leaves for the city. Before he left, the sisters requested for dresses but Beauty only asked for a rose.

Unfortunately, the merchant could not regain his money, leaving him as poor as ever. He loses his way when returning home and finds shelter in a castle. Duh, he landed right in the home of the Beast! He eats and sleeps there for the night. The next morning, he could not resist plucking a rose from the garden for Beauty. The Beast appears and demands that in return, the merchant must sacrifice himself or one of his daughters. The merchant goes back home, tells his sad tale and Beauty offers herself up to the challenge.

That was my abridged version. Well, the story was longer than that but you could read it all under an hour. I enjoyed it somehow and simply ignored most of the stereotypes in the story.

Beauty = good, good, good, perfect!
Beast = kind, a bit stupid but smart at the same time.
The merchant = Loves his children very much but willing to sacrifice youngest daughter to the Beast.
Beauty’s sisters = self-centred, envious, cunning.
Beauty’s brothers = no personality.

Unlike The Little Mermaid, this fairy tale has a happy ending.

Have you read the story? Any thoughts on it?

The Baby Bible Christmas Storybook by Robin Currie and Constanza Basaluzzo

No Christian kid is too ever too young to get to know the Bible. This is why The Baby Bible Christmas Storybook is the perfect first glimpse of bible stories for a young child.

It begins with ‘Mary’s Secret’ where Mary finds out from the angel Gabriel that she’s going to be the Mother of God.

After that, it’s a chronology of events right up until the birth of Jesus Christ.

There is a short prayer included at the end of every story. I love this one because of the way it’s written:

Dear God, thank You for the best secret: Jesus. Amen

What’s fun is that you don’t only read from the book to your kid but both of you could engage in some fun movements to bring the stories to life! For example,

The angel told Mary a special secret.
Put your fingers on your lips: shhhh.

You and your child will not find a dull moment while reading it.

Written by Robin Currie and illustrated by Constanza Basaluzzo, it is a sturdy board book with cute, colourful graphics to keep your kid (and you!) glued to the pages till the very end. Even if your baby decides to chew on the pages, the book won’t fall to bits.

This book is a recommended read during Christmas, of course. But don’t let it stop you from picking it up at other times of the year and re-reading with your child about the events that lead up to the birth of Jesus, which is the moment celebrated by Christians worldwide every Dec 25th!

***Thanks to Audra Jennings from The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy of this book.

The Blue Umbrella by Mike Mason

How’s the weather at your place right now? Over here in Penang, Malaysia, it’s raining and windy, just the type of weather that I love at night when I’m asleep or reading. Actually, I’ve always yearned for such weather because it’s so nice to be indoors, lazing on the couch with a good book.

After reading The Blue Umbrella, you’ll probably never look at weather or an umbrella the same way again. The entire story is centred on weather though it’s not as boring as small weather talk.

Ten-year-old Zac Sparks has just lost his mother. Apparently she died after being struck by lightning. Zac does not know who or where his father was and thought he had no other living relatives. But on the day of his mother’s funeral, two “aunties” appeared and fussed over him.

When the other mourners left, Auntie Esmeralda and Auntie Pris changed their tune. They bundled him up in their car and brought him back to their house in Five Corners. They refused to call him by his name and only addressed him as ‘Boy’. He was also forced to act as waiter at their birthday party and was not given any meals.

At the aunties’ house, he meets Butler, a very small and old man who works as a butler for the aunties. Butler tells Zac that the aunties are everybody’s aunties, which is weird. They also seem to hold some kind of authority over the other inhabitants of Five Corners. They are very, very old and Zac is curious over how old they really are.

Zac also meets Chelsea, a girl who doesn’t talk but is one of the few people who is pleasant with him. He befriends her brother Ches, an expert on weather. Zac also meets a blind balloon seller, Eldy who also doesn’t speak even though Zac thought he had a conversation with him. How, he wasn’t sure. Zac then gets to know about O, the “town drunk” who sings beautifully but is never seen.

The person who fascinates Zac the most is Sky Porter. Mr Porter owns Porter’s General Store which people say is haunted. Every morning through his bedroom window, Zac would watch Mr Porter welcome in the new day. Mr Porter would just stand with his umbrella on his arm, in front of his store as the day begins. Zac wonders what it’d be like to meet Mr Porter whom the Aunties extremely dislike.

When he finally does meet him and is offered a job at the store, Zac felt that he has met somebody that he could trust. But Zac walks around feeling troubled because he has to steal something from Mr Porter to give to Dada, a terrifying old man who happens to be the Aunties’ father. As long as he does not steal it, the Aunties would whack him with their beloved, mysterious cane.

If only some parts weren’t included or it wouldn’t be a 425-page book. I felt sorry for Zac who has just lost his mother and was forced to be a slave to horrible characters like the Aunties. It’s quite a lot for a 10-year-old to endure. No wonder he opened up to Sky Porter the way he did. I really liked this Porter character. He sounds like a pleasant enough fellow that it’s hard to believe most of the people in town stayed away from him.

What’s attractive about the book is the colourful cover which shows Porter standing in the doorway of his store. The story is okay for me and it is different from other fantasy novels. I liked how the author, Mike Mason could spin a simple theme such as weather into a welcoming read like this. I also liked the various characters in the novel. Each of them had their own striking individuality!

You can check out the interview with Mike Mason at the end of the book. There’s also a glossary for you to refer to should you not know the meaning of certain words found in the story. This is also Mason’s first novel.

***Thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer

Fanny Wendover, young, attractive and lively has certainly caught the eye of many men. But lately, a dashing young man who seems too good to be true, Stacy Calverleigh has set his sights on her. He has charmed her and her aunt, Selina, with his appealing attitude and sweet words. Unfortunately, Fanny’s other aunt, Abigail or Abby, thinks that Stacy is just a guy who’s more interested in Fanny’s money.

Since Fanny’s an orphan, she’s been under the care of her two doting aunts and her uncle who’s her guardian. Fearing that Fanny will be tricked and hurt by Stacy, Abby tries to keep them apart. Well, she can’t really separate them but she keeps an eye on them whenever she can. Fanny is only 17 years old and Stacy’s much older. Therefore, it’s quite odd and disturbing to know that an older man would genuinely be interested in Fanny. There’s also been a case of unsuccessful elopement in Stacy’s past.

Now there’s another Calverleigh in the picture. It is Stacy’s uncle, Miles Calverleigh who has also tried to elope some 20 years ago. Because of that and as punishment, he’s been sent to live in India. Well, the prodigal son has since returned and he has set his sights on Abigail Wendover herself! Two Calverleighs showing interest in two Wendovers! It couldn’t be more fascinating.

Miles doesn’t seem to care for anyone else or what other people think of him. Although Abby tries to refrain herself from laughing out loud at the things that Miles say, she just couldn’t help chuckling every now and then during their conversations. They’re obviously falling for each other but can the Wendover family accept such a man as Miles Calverleigh, the known black sheep of his family?

The ending is a delightful one. I was curious to find out if Stacy will actually marry Fanny or if he’ll just ditch her because he can’t get approval from her aunt and uncle. Will Fanny also see his true colours and not put him on so high a pedestal?

I’m so glad Black Sheep has been a better read than Friday’s Child, the first Georgette Heyer book I’ve read. There are only 18 chapters in this book so it wasn’t quite a drag. I was pleasantly surprised to come across some funny parts in it and actually laughed at them. I don’t remember laughing once with Friday’s Child! Maybe I should give these books a chance.

***Thanks to Danielle Jackson from Sourcebooks for sending me this book to review.