Literary Eye Candy (Beautiful Fairy Tales!)

By , June 18, 2008 7:00 am

Anyone who has paid any attention at all to my children’s book recommendations might have noticed that illustrations are very important to me. In fact, I have an illustration prejudice. Most of the books I review are classified in the “exceptional illustrations” category because that is what I like. I confess that if a children’s book is well written but I find the illustrations unattractive, I usually think less of the book.

Because of this, we have some really lovely books that literally take my breath away every time I open them up. Just like a gorgeous man with a substandard IQ – who cares about literary quality when the pictures are that incredible to look at! (Just kidding of course…)

If you share my prejudice, then read on!

  • Lovely illustration tip number one: Any fairy tale illustrated by K.Y. Craft or Paul O. Zelinsky will be spectacular in an ornate, Renaissance painting type of way (my personal weakness).
  • Lovely illustration tip number two: Find a book you like the look of on Amazon, and then follow the “customers who bought this also bought” and “what do customers ultimately buy after viewing this item” links, or even the Listmanias in the sidebar, to discover other gorgeous books. How does Amazon “know?”
  • Lovely illustration tip number three: Did I mention K.Y. Craft?

In my mind, fairy tales (classic and not so classic) MUST be sumptuously illustrated. If they are not, or worse – if they are “Disneyfied” (another prejudice on my part), then forget it.

Here are some that we have and enjoy. Be advised that I consider these books to be for older children (ages 5 and up?) because they are very “wordy.” However, you could share them with younger children if you paraphrase the text and just focus on the pictures.

Also, I don’t want to spend a lot of time analyzing the literary value, so not a lot of talk about the text this time. The point here is that the stories are fine, but the illustrations are superb:

Sleeping Beauty by K.Y. Craft is a rich feast for the eyes. The story is pretty much as I remember it from my childhood. The illustrations make it spectacular. To see more of the illustrations, please look at K.Y. Craft’s Sleeping Beauty page on his website.


Cinderella by K.Y. Craft. Of course there are many versions of Cinderella around the world, but this is the one I remember from my childhood here in the US. By the way, I WANT Cinderella’s dress. Wouldn’t it look lovely on me as I browse the produce section at Safeway? K.Y. Craft’s Cinderella page.


King Midas and the Golden Touch as told by by Charlotte Craft and illustrated by (you guessed it!), K.Y. Craft. Again, very traditional story which I like, and sumptuous illustrations. In this book I covet Aurelia’s (the daughter’s) hair. Glossy chestnut ringlets of course. Actually, I want all the hair from all of these K.Y. Craft fairy tales. How come no one has straight hair? I guess that’s why they call them “fairy tales” right? If they were real, they’d all have straight hair and bad skin. More King Midas illustrations.


The Twelve Dancing Princesses as told by Marianna Mayer and illustrated by K.Y. Craft. This is a classic fairy tale that was unknown to me before discovering this book. Apart from the dresses and the ringlets, I like the messages of strong women and overcoming class barriers. Be sure to look at the illustrations on K.Y. Craft’s Twelve Dancing Princesses page. I think this is perhaps the best illustrated of all that I have mentioned so far.


Rumpelstiltskin by Paul O. Zelinsky (adapted from The Brothers Grimm). Very true to what I remember, and illustrations “worth their weight in gold!” Visit Paul O. Zelinsky’s Rumpelstiltskin page to see more. A Caldecott Honor Book.


Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky. Lovely, Renaissance-like oil paintings. The classic Rapunzel tale. Boy, do I want HER hair! One potential word of warning for parents here though: there might be an awkward moment if you have to explain why Rapunzel’s dress grows “tight” around the waist after she marries the visiting prince in a secret ceremony in the tower. My kids didn’t notice a thing, but if you fear this is more detail than you want to get into, then be sure to borrow the book from the library first and read it yourself. Visit Paul O. Zelinsky’s Rapunzel page to see more art. A Caldecott Medal Winner.


The Magic Nesting Doll by Jacqueline K. Ogburn and illustrated by Laurel Long. If I had to choose one of these books as my favorite for the illustrations it would have to be this one. There is a level of fine detail and delicateness to these illustrations beyond even what I see in the other books (and those are quite amazing). In an interesting feminist turn around of the normal fairy tale universe, the beautiful girl actually saves the handsome prince! Another plus: The characters have straight hair. No bad skin though. Unfortunately there is no website that I can find for further illustrations, but trust me, they are gorgeous.

10 Responses to “Literary Eye Candy (Beautiful Fairy Tales!)”

  1. Jenny says:

    These are gorgeous books- I’ve never heard of KY Craft! I’m going to have to see if I can find some of these at the library. Before I read what you wrote about the Magic Nesting Doll, I said to myself, “I REALLY like that one!” so I thought it was interesting that it was your favorite as well- the feminist twist is a bonus too!

    Jennys last blog post..Surprise!

  2. Melissa says:

    Wow! What fabulous illustrations. I have made a few requests from the library already. I can’t wait to share these with my kids.

  3. mel says:

    Fabulous! I’ll be requesting some KY Craft from our library, too.

    You and your readers will appreciate Jean’s list of favourite illustrators over at The Artful Parent. (

    Be sure to peruse the comments of that post for more fantastic suggestions!

  4. Alex says:

    I am just the same as you about children’s books. We have chosen many from our library just from the “look” of it, lol!
    Anyway, I thought I would suggest another one for you I just found at our library…(sorry if you already know of it). The Lady and the Lion retold by L. Long and J.Ogburn, illustrated by Laurel Long. Here is a link:

    Alexs last blog post..Creating Our Own Zoo Map

  5. @Alex
    Hi Alex,
    I just discovered “The Lady and the Lion” at Amazon while gathering links for this post. It is by the same author and illustrator as “The Magic Nesting Doll” which I love, so I ordered it. I am glad to hear that it is a good book! We should be receiving our copy tomorrow. Thanks so much for your recommendation!

  6. Heather says:

    I just reserved a bunch of these books from the library. I’ve never read any of Craft’s books, but I LOVE Zelinsky! Have you ever read any books illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman? She’s probably my favorite illustrator. I love how her women are all gorgeous (you’d love their hair) and that her men are strong and ultra-manly! I use this to my advantage when justifying reading my boys Sleeping Beauty of Snow White to a sometimes skeptical hubby!

    Heathers last blog post..New Arrangements

  7. Tanya says:

    Check out the illustrator Gennady Spirin – his work is on par with K Y Craft’s and has done several illustrations for fairy tales as well as Biblical stories. Another illustrator I love, who is very different, is Lisbeth Zwerger. She also illustrates fairy tales. I judge a book by it’s cover all the time…

    Tanyas last blog post..The Beginning Reader Dilemma

  8. Hi there. We really had fun with this weeks project task FRUIT. Not only was our fun it was oh so yummmy. I hope you like. We love your blog.

  9. Coca says:

    I managed to stumble over here by the amazing Cinderella, and I read that you like books with pretty illustrations, then you should check out the Ukrainian illustrator Vladyslav Yerko, the first art I saw by him was in the book The Snow Queen, and it is amazing

  10. Mom Unplugged says:

    Thank you so much for the recommendation! I just Googled him and you are right, his art is amazing. Thank you for introducing me to someone new!

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