The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty's Prince

256p. Disney Pr. Jul. 2014. RTE $16.99. ISBN 9781423159124; ebk. ISBN 9781423196372. LC 2013946516.
Gr 4–6—Many children grow up with some familiarity with the story of Beauty and the Beast, particularly the Walt Disney version. Readers often admire the beautiful and smart Belle, a devoted daughter and booklover, who is as lovely on the inside as the outside. That she could come to love such a horrific-looking and reclusive creature is testament to her kind nature. And yet, readers know so little of this mysterious Beast and of the spell that caused him to become an outcast within his own kingdom. In this spin-off from Disney's retelling of the old tale, Valentino does her best to expand upon the Beast's side of things: What was it that transformed the handsome and charming Prince into a Beast? Gaston plays a big role in this story, as does a competing love interest of both male characters, Tulip. Belle doesn't appear until toward the end, as this book operates as a prelude to the film. Some new characters add interest, such as the Odd Sisters, a trio of witches spurred by a broken heart and a zeal for revenge. As interesting as that premise is, the book is weighted down by clunky writing, shallow character development, a lack of depth and nuance. It will likely appeal to only the most die-hard fans of the Disney film.—Meg Allison, The Moretown School, VT
Valentino provides a dark backstory for the Disney-movie version of the Beast. Belle and others make cameos; new characters and elements are introduced, including three insane witches, Gaston's friendship with the Beast (before he was the Beast), and lots of sexist comments. The uneven writing swings jarringly from casual and colloquial (e.g., "blow a gasket") to more formal and literary (e.g., "braggart").

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