A few weeks ago I was super lucky and won an Instagram/Facebook giveaway from @mwladieswholit. I’m not the type to win anything, especially good things like a free book, so I was extremely excited when I saw I won. The ladies did a beautiful job with making the book special for me, which made winning even better.
First, everyone is in a Beauty and the Beast craze right now with the movie coming out in two days (eek!). I will admit I’m just as excited, and I plan on seeing the new movie with my husband as soon as we can line up a babysitter. Beauty and the Beast has always been one of my favorite Disney movies, and I wore Alfred Angelo’s Belle dress as my wedding dress in 2012, so I’m also a BATB fans.
The book itself is simply gorgeous. The cover art is imaginative and captures Belle’s feelings for her love of books perfectly. I love that the book is hardcover because it just wouldn’t feel right in paperback.
The book is an offshoot of the movie, which I really liked because I was able to visualize everything to match up with the film. As any fan knows, the movie focuses on the relationship that blossoms between Belle and the Beast, and the book does as well, but it also dives more into Belle’s emotional journey at the castle. For some reason I never thought much about Belle’s transition to life in the castle because, before viewers knew it, she was in love. This book is a glimpse into the emotional turmoil that Belle experienced while she became friends with the Beast.
As a middle school language arts teacher, I have spent the last seven years teaching students how to infer quotes, and this book is full of them! There were so many times that I wanted to take out my highlighter and mark up the text, but I refrained because I plan on keeping this book personal and not professional. One of my favorite lines in the text spoke to me as a lifelong reader.
” ‘Reading became my sanctuary,’ Belle continued. ‘I found so much in those books. I found histories that inspired me. Poems that delighted me. Novels that challenged me…’ Belle paused, suddenly self-conscious. She looked down at her hands, and in a wistful voice, said, ‘What I really found though, was myself'”(p. 19).
Many of my passionate student readers have always told me that reading is an escape for them, and I would have to agree with that. This quote accurately describes the relationship between a reader and a text, which is probably the most personal relationship in a reader’s life.
Another aspect of the reading which caught my attention was the language used. There were pieces of French to align with the film and story, but there was an impressive amount of challenging vocabulary. I would definitely recommend using reading strategies like context clues and looking up the definition to assist with decoding some of the vocabulary. At first I would have had recommended this book for 5th grade and up, but after reading I would suggest high 6th or 7th grade and up. The plot is simple and easy to follow, but the vocabulary can be challenging to middle school readers.
I will admit that I had to re-read parts of the first few pages because I expected to be thrown right into Belle’s world. As a warning, the prologue sets up the main conflict of the plot, which involves Love and Death. This did confuse me at first because it was unexpected, but as the story continued it did make sense.
Other than the very beginning, the book was a quick read and very predictable. The author sets the story up to show how unhappy Belle is with her life at the castle, which is why she resorts to literally throwing herself into Nevermore. The best reading comprehension strategies to use for this text would be re-reading, and creating a character chart. There were some new characters introduced so a character chart would be beneficial to help keep all of the new ones organized. I would suggest using one like this chart.
Overall, I thought the book was an interesting addition to the original movie plot. It was a quick read, but one that I probably wouldn’t read more than once. I would recommend it for upper middle school students and up because of the vocabulary.