These darkening nights invite families to curl up with hot drinks, blankets, and a pile of timeless fairy tales. There are many versions of these well-known stories, but for classic retellings and sumptuous illustrations you need look no further than the work of Kinuko Y. Craft.
Sometimes painting under the name K.Y. Craft, this artist has richly brought to life a number of fairy tales, as told by several different authors. Over an impressive career, she has collaborated with her husband, Mahlon Craft, on gorgeous versions of Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty; and with her daughter Charlotte Craft who wrote King Midas and the Golden Touch and Cupid and Psyche. She has notably lent her magic to Pegasus, The Adventures of Tom Thumb, and Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave as told by Marianna Mayer. There is also a Cinderella which she appears to have adapted herself from Arthur Rackham’s translation. Each of these is a wonder to behold.
Craft’s illustrations are simply exquisite. Dripping with detail, her use of light and shadow gives a luminescent quality to her classical figures. Natural and yet idealized – with all the dreamlike beauty that draws us to fairy tales in the first place – these pictures are a treat to the eyes and equally satisfying to the mind craving a lovely escape.
From elegant margin decorations to vast landscapes to the pathos of the subjects themselves, there is a great deal for young readers to explore over and over again. The texts are all very pretty; long by modern standards but not too long to hold a child captivated. With a voice that is stately but not antiquated, the tales are told in fine style. (I do find the various Craft iterations to be more clear than Mayer’s tellings.)
These glorious tales are a magnificent introduction to the world of enchantment, embattled virtue, and happy endings. Presented with an air of nobility, all the jeweled gowns and festooned bowers hint at something quite simple: in the face of the very real evils in the world, bravery is to be cultivated like roses, and the way of peace and goodness is always to be sought.
Craft’s beautiful works are perfect for families with a range of ages, for smaller children love the thrill and splendor of the classic tales, while older children can mull the themes as they begin to make sense of their own world. I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite, though King Midas is certainly a contender; you’ll simply have to call up your librarian and request them all.