Beauty and the Squat Bears
written by Émile Bravo
There are many different versions of fairy tales out there. Émile Bravo gives young readers a very irreverent take on classic tales with Beauty and the Squat Bears. This isn’t a retelling of one fairy tale, but rather a mixture of several different ones, plus some of Bravo’s own quirkiness.
It starts with Snow White’s stepmother speaking with the magic mirror and learning that she’s not the most beautiful woman in the world. However, the next page then takes us to the story of Sleeping Beauty. And the third page…well, the third page introduces us to seven squat bears all waking up peacefully in the morning.
The bears go off to get food, only to soon discover that Snow White is trying to get into their home to escape from her stepmother. The bears don’t really want a visitor, so Snow White offers to do whatever they want in order to stay. One bear suggests chores, to which she replies princesses don’t do chores. The only thing she wants to do is marry a prince.
So one of the bears goes off to find her a prince. On his journey, he finds a prince who’s been turned into a talking bird. That won’t cut it for Snow White, because he’s not human, which means another prince has to be found. Well, a few other princes come into the story, but there’s a problem with each one of them. Besides Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, we get tastes of other stories, like Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and The Three Little Pigs.
Beauty and the Squat Bears was originally published in France, where it became very successful. Now translated into English and available in America, this graphic novel-style picture book ought to be popular with elementary school-aged children, or even those younger. It’s a whimsical, odd, entertaining story that’s definitely a far cry from the original fairy tales it was based on. (It even has a television in it.)
All of the pictures are in color, and while some pictures take up a whole page, there are often three or four panels on each page. The artwork is somewhat cartoony, choosing not to be realistic. This isn’t Bravo’s only work like it—fans can check out Goldilocks and the Seven Squat Bears and The Hunger of the Seven Squat Bears.-- Danica Davidson