I asked for the illustrated version of The Princess Bride for Christmas, and NerdyWithChildren said, “As you wish.”
My copy of The Princes Bride growing up looked like it was stored under the sink in a bathroom at a rest stop. It was well-loved, well-worn, and well-stained. It went with me to Ireland and saw the Cliffs of Moher, which had a starring role in the film version as The Cliffs of Insanity. It’s cool. I like those types of books. They have character. They have stories for their stories. But the illustrated copy is going on the top shelf with all my signed books because it is that beautiful– and it has just as much character as my well-loved copy.
It all feels so wonderfully storybook, which I feel is something we don’t see in kids books a lot these days. I’m reminded of the wonder I had when I was six and my parents bought me my first copy of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. It, too, had beautiful illustrations, as well as a map and I was just smitten with it. I spent hours memorizing the map and looking over the details of every single picture, hoping I wouldn’t miss something. Everyone recently has been so focused on making colorful, cartoony products that a lot of creativity gets lost. You see it more in indie publishers now, but Houghton Mifflin Harcourt really pulled out the stops with this release, making it aesthetically pleasing to both kids interested in the story and adult book-collectors, like this nerd.
And the pictures– oh, my sweet Westley, the pictures. The above painting is from the cover. I mean, really. It’s flawless. It’s clear that artist Michael Manomivibul took just enough inspiration from the movie to make the images seem familiar, but still create something wonderful all on his own. I had a really rough time picking my favorite. I also had a ridiculously rough time not flipping through the book as I was reading it and spoiling the pictures for myself as I wanted to experience them in the moment of the story.
Some of the stories that Goldman tells about his experiences in the publishing industry might be a little over the heads of younger readers, but there isn’t anything that is inappropriate or too scary and it doesn’t detract at all from the tale either. You get the same wonderful fairy tale about love, revenge, swordfighting, and pirates, but with the added kick of the pictures. Like pint-sized Fred Savage in the film, no doubt your kids will want you to jump around to the good parts of this version.
Like many recent versions of the paperback, this book also includes a sample of Buttercup’s Baby, which was supposedly the translated sequel to the ‘original’ novel, also by S. Morgenstern, due to come out eventually. You may pick up on the fact that Goldman never intended to release Buttercup’s Baby (don’t be embarrassed if you didn’t; plenty of folks wrote him when it first came out asking), and that it was all still a part of the in-joke about publishing, so prepare for your kids to ask you how they can get their hands on it and maybe suggest similar books like The Neverending Story by Michael Ende or The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle.
Basically, if you love the movie or the book and want to introduce your kids to it, this copy is perfect. The beautiful illustrations make it a great read-along book, but you don’t have to worry about your burgeoning reader taking this one alone. It’s a book that they’re going to fall in love with and this copy will last and remain beautiful until they read to their grandchildren some day.