Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Variations on a Theme of Little Red Riding Hood

Happy New Year!

I thought I would start the new year sharing some great versions of Little Red Riding Hood.

Little Red
written and illustrated by Bethan Woollvin
(April 2016 release)
Starting with the end papers, the simple color palette (black, charcoal gray, white, and red) used for this book proves dramatic. With a repeated pattern of evergreen (charcoal gray), followed by two bare tree trunks the reader's eye is immediately drawn to Little Red in her bright red cloak and shoes. The wolf, hiding behind an evergreen can been seen, but not as quickly.

Woollvin's story remains true to the original until she looks into the window to see the wolf in her grandmother's bed. The observant reader can spot an ax stuck in a tree stump in through the window, also reminiscent of the original fairy tale, but this time, Little Red makes a plan before going inside grandmother's house. The surprising twist, Little Red returns home with a new fur coat!

This might seem a little dark for a children's book, but you have to remember the original story has a much more disturbing end. In Charles Perrault's, author of the earliest known printed version of the story, entitled Le Petit Chaperon Rouge "Little Red Riding Hood ends up being asked to climb into the bed before being eaten by the wolf, where they story ends." The moral this story told children was not to listen to the words of strangers.

Little Red's Riding 'Hood
written by Peter Stein, illustrated by Chris Gall
(February 2015 release)
The end papers for this book remind me of the ones from the above book, except for the fact the wolf is now a monster truck named Tank and Little Red is a scooter. Both characters appear on the front end papers, but only Little Red is on the back end papers. The absence of Tank on the back papers sends the message to the read of the happy ending since Little Red is headed back home from Granny Putt Putt's house.

I am not a car fanatic, but I believe young children, especially boys will find this new version of Little Red Riding Hood fun to read and listen to during story time. The author was very creative in building the text around the scooter, cars, and monster truck. At times it feels like a stretch when reading, but this is to be expected in a fairy tale. I was delightfully surprised to see how "the wolf" was recycled in the end. Definitely an unusual twist to the classic Red tale.

Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood
written by Liesl Shurtliff
Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Shurtliff is unlike either of the first two. This book is a chapter book, recommended for readers in middle elementary and up. The story does not just focus on Red's travels to grandmother's house and her encounter with the Big Bad Wolf. In the first chapter, we learn of Red's magical grandmother, as well as Red's attempts at magic herself. The humor in the first chapter is wonderful for capturing the reader's attention.  The magical spells included are very clever and create a great picture in the reader's mind.

Red does travel to her Granny's house in the story and finds Granny very ill. So ill in fact Red has to wonder through the woods in order to gather the ingredients for a Cure-All potion. As Red gathers the ingredients, we are introduced to a number of magical creatures, including pixies, dwarfs, and tree nymphs. I don't want to ruin the ending of this fairy tale for you because it is not what you will expect. The villain in Shurtliff's version, or "the true story" is not who you would suspect. You will have to read  Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood to find out the rest of the story.

*To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission,  the following publishers have provided a complimentary hard copy or electronic version of the book for review purposes. 

Little Red. Myrick Marketing & Media, LLC - Peachtree Publishers.
Little Red's Riding 'Hood. Orchard Books.
Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood. Random House Children's Knopf Books for Young Readers.

My review is in no way influenced by the publishing company and is strictly my opinion.