Focus for this list: I have a weakness for elaborately illustrated picture books; I also love the classic fairy tales, myths, and legends. This list focuses on the intersection between those two passions. And yes, I do love the Pre-Raphaelite artists.
In this age of Disney and Pixar adaptations, I often wonder if the kids have ever heard the original story. Mind you, these picture books are written as read-alouds, and so your little one probably won't be able to read them independently until late elementary - early middle school. As read-alouds for 1st - 3rd graders, they're fabulous!
1. Snow White as retold and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
One of my favorite artists, her very realistically drawn scenes draw one in. If you look closely, you'll usually find someone, or something looking back at you! This is one of my all-time favorite books.
2. Little Red Riding Hood as retold and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
This book won the Caldecott Honor Medal in 1984, and remains my favorite take on that tale.
3. Rapunzel as retold by Barbara Rogasky, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
This is the classic version, with the eyes and the twin babies. Having read some of Jane Yolen's commentary on the story, I see it a bit differently now.
4. The Sleeping Beauty as retold and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
Did I mention that she's one of my favorite artists? I meant it! She also does a wonderful job of retelling the stories using language that is clear, and yet complex enough to retain the beauty of the story.
5. The Twelve Dancing Princesses as retold by Marianna Mayer, and illustrated by K. Y. Craft
See? This isn't just a list of gorgeous books by T.S.H. really, it isn't! If you've not heard of this story, you're missing out. Enjoy!
6. Tam Lin as retold by Jane Yolen, and illustrated by Charles Mikolaycak
Of all the fairy tales, I think this one is perhaps the spookiest. It's also one of my favorites as it hinges on the bravery of the female protagonist. Jane Yolen has a talent for breathing life into these stories that few can match.
7. Cupid and Psyche as told by M. Charlotte Craft and illustrated by K.Y. Craft
It's one of those stories that you're supposed to learn, perhaps by osmosis. This book illustrates it powerfully.
8. The Mightiest Heart by Lynn Cullen, illustrated by Laurel Long
This is a tragic but beautiful Welsh legend, retold. Dog lovers, beware, this one will make you weep.
9. Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave as told by Marianna Mayer and illustrated by K.Y. Craft
This has the most (delightfully) horrifying portrait of Baba Yaga I've ever seen. If you're going to read it to a child, though, keep in mind that the beginning is rather terrifying, and that it gets better.
10. The Dancing Pig by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Jesse Sweetwater
This retelling of a classic Balinese story is just charming. I'm trying to track down other books illustrated by Jesse Sweetwater. Enjoy!