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Books in Brief: A Stitch in Time by Daphne Kalmar; Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge by Lisa Jensen

Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge by Lisa Jensen; Candlewick Press, 337 pages ($18.99) Ages 16 and up.

This beautifully written, fresh reimagining of "Beauty and the Beast" finds new depths in the familiar fairy tale, exploring the nature of ugliness, the lie of the handsome exterior, the hidden beauty of the Beast. (On the opening page is the Greta Garbo quote, expressing her disappointment at the transformation of beast back into prince in the Jean Cocteau film: "Give me back my Beast.")
The author uses elements of the familiar fairy tale and the Disney version and adds a protagonist, telling the tale from the perspective of young Lucie, sent as a servant to Chateau Beaumont after her father's death.  She has heard the terrible rumors about the predatory lord of the manor,  handsome Jean-Loup. When Lucie is unlucky enough to find herself alone with him, the worst happens and she feels her life is over. A witch helps her fulfill her thirst for revenge, transforming the prince into a hideous Beast. Lucie – transformed by the witch into an enchanted silver candelabra, with flames that never go out – comes to love the Beast as she witnesses his tender care of his rose garden, his attempts at poetry, his grief at the wrong done to her. When a  merchant takes shelter at the castle, steals a rose and sends his daughter Rose to Beast as part of the bargain, Lucie worries that Rose, delighted at the riches of the enchanted castle, will marry the Beast and turn him back into the despised Jean-Loup. Jensen, a film critic and author of two novels for adults, offers compelling portraits of Beast and Lucie and vivid writing: "Wild-growing thicket and bramble smother the stately, manicured trees and riot across the green." Her cleverly crafted narrative includes a marvelous plot twist, and, as this fairy tale demands, a happy ending.

A Stitch in Time by Daphne Kalmar; Feiwel and Friends, 167 pages ($16.99)

Told in the unforgettable voice of 11-year-old Donut (nicknamed after the sweet treat that calmed her as a colicky baby), this marvelous debut novel set in rural Vermont in 1927 is a beautifully written, compelling tale of finding your way to the light after heartbreaking loss. Donut's mother died when she was born; all she knows of her mother are the stories her father told her. And now her father is gone too, and her unpleasant Aunt Agnes wants Donut to move to Boston and leave behind everything that is familiar, everything that reminds her of her dad. Donut tries to plead her case for staying with her father's friend Sam, a taxidermist who has taught her his craft. When that fails, she decides to run away, setting out in her father's invention, a folding boat, to cross Dog Pond to hide in a neighbor's rundown cabin. But hiding out is both uncomfortable and boring, and when she accidentally sets fire to the cabin, she discovers a whole circle of people who seem to care very much what happens to her, along with a new way of looking at Aunt Agnes. Kalmar is a wonderful writer; Donut at one point muses: "Aunt Agnes's head should have exploded by now from the boredom." Or, as she applies her taxidermy skills to a deer mouse, she recalls a previous failed effort when the eyeball popped in backward: "The little deer mouse would forever gaze into the pitch-black of its own empty skull."

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