I was so spellbound by Scott Gustafson’s Classic Fairy Tales that I immediately ordered two more of his collection of stories. One of them arrived today: Classic Storybook Fables (ISBN: 978-1579657048). It has the same large format, though it has fewer pages (84 compared to 144) and only eight stories (instead of 10). The stories included are:
- The Ugly Duckling
- Beauty and the Beast
- The Crow and the Pitcher
- the Emperor’s New Clothes
- The Boy Who Cried Wolf
- The Little Red Hen
- The Mice in Council
- The Boy Who Went to the North Wind
Classic Storybook Fables may have less in terms of quantity, but it has more than retained the quality set by Classic Fairy Tales. In fact, the illustrations look even more beautiful – which I didn’t think possible. The cover picture of Beauty and the Beast in particular is exquisite, a real work of art. The illustrations for The Boy Who Went to the North Wind are also superb, oozing with magic and so achingly inviting. They are the sort of illustrations that make our world look so dull and dreary, images that make you dream of being transported to the land of magic.
The title of the book is slightly misleading because less than half of the stories are, strictly speaking, fables. The rest are more traditional fairy stories. I also do not like the “twist” Gustafson pulled on his version of The Emperor’s New Clothes. All the characters are portrayed by different breeds of dogs which for me changed the feel of the story. The Emperor’s New Clothes is about human vanity and having dogs as the characters did not feel quite right. I understand why Gustafson made the change – The Emperor’s New Clothes would otherwise have been the only story in the book that did not feature animal characters but a better choice, I feel, would have been including the story in the other books where it would have been more at home, rather changing it to fit the theme of this particular book.
But the Emperor’s metamorphosis is not enough to ruin Classic Storybook Fables for me. It’s still a delightful book of fairy tales, one that I’m thrilled to add to my collection.