Little Red Riding Hood

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asic Plot Summary: As Little Red Riding Hood travels through the forest to visit her ailing grandmother and deliver a basket of food, she meets a wolf and tells him where she’s going. He rushes there before she arrives, eats her grandmother and disguises himself in the grandmother’s clothes. When Little Red Riding Hood gets there, she questions her grandmother’s appearance, but the wolf tricks her into coming close enough to eat her, as well. A woodcutter cuts the wolf open, rescues the girl and her grandmother and fills the wolf with stones.

Just a few years ago, it was apparently discovered that this story originated in the Middle East in the 1st century. The first published version, written by Charles Perrault in the late 17th century, introduced the red hood and ended with the wolf eating Little Red. The Brothers Grimm published the version we are more familiar with, in which someone comes to their rescue. A number of adaptations find sexual symbolism in the story, portraying Red as a naïve and virginal girl experiencing a rite of passage to womanhood. Certainly, Tex Avery’s animated short, Red Hot Riding Hood, plays up on that interpretation.

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Little Red Riding Hood – Jerry Pinkney sticks very close to the original story in his version and gives us a racially diverse cast of characters. The story is set in winter, which allows for some gorgeous contrast between the white snow-covered forest and the bright red of the cloak. The illustrations are done with pencil, watercolor, gouache and ink and all seem to be moments captured in mid-movement, giving them a heightened sense of reality as opposed to other illustrations in which the characters look posed. This is a really great version of the story. (Little, Brown and Company, 2007)

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Little Red Riding Hood – In this updated version, Little Red Riding Hood lives on the edge of a prairie, in the middle of open farm land and she rides a bicycle everywhere she goes. The wolf that she meets on her way to deliver muffins and lemonade to her grandmother isn’t interested in her as a meal here. He’s looking for more of a meal ticket, with his eye on the recipe for the delicious smelling wheat berry muffins in her basket. All ends well, though, as Grandma foils his plans to steal the recipe and she even gives him a job in her bakery. Author/illustrator Lisa Campbell Ernst keeps the tone light and fun here and even includes a recipe for the wheat berry muffins. (Aladdin Paperbacks, 1995)

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Betsy Red Hoodie – There are lots of new twists in this fun and comical version. Author Gail Carson Levine makes Betsy a shepherd who guards the valley’s sheep with the help of her friend, Zimmo, a wolf. Betsy stands by Zimmo, but when he appears to be heading toward Grandma’s house, she starts to wonder if her trust has been betrayed. Scott Nash’s artwork has a neat vintage feel to it and word balloons add to the comic appeal of this very charming story. The happy ending is delightful and unexpected. (Harper, 2010)

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Pretty Salma – Author/illustrator Niki Daly takes us all the way to Ghana for this version of the story with a West African flavor. Pretty Salma learns the hard way not to speak to strangers when Mr. Dog tricks her and endangers her beloved Granny. She gets the best of him with a little help her Grandfather’s Anansi mask and some musical instruments, all of which frighten him away. The illustrations, in watercolor and digital media, showcase the culture, fabrics and environment of Ghana and readers get to learn two Ghanaian words: ntama (a wrap-around skirt) and atumpan (a talking drum).  (Clarion Books, 2006)

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Little Red– Having previously set Cinderella in the 1930’s and Rapunzel in the groovy 70’s, siblings Lynn and David Roberts now give us a  Little Red Riding Hood from the American Revolution. In this version, the main character is a boy named Thomas, who is called Little Red after his favorite color. His parents own an inn that’s famous for its ginger ale, which he delivers to Grandma and also uses to trick the wolf that has eaten her. The story is lots of fun and the artwork, in pen and ink and watercolor, is filled with period details, such as clothing, furniture and even some famous paintings. (Harry N. Abrams, Inc, 2005)

And what did we learn? What I take away from Little Red Riding Hood is that dark paths and unknown people can spell danger if you’re not on your guard. So let’s be careful out there, people.

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