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April 22, 2016

Little Red, by Bethan Woollvin

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My big girl blew my mind this week with her “persuasive writing assignment,” about why the book Super Red Riding Hood should win the Blue Spruce Award through the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading Award. “Firstly, it is a feminist book because it has a has a superhero who is a girl,” she wrote in her piece. “Secondly, it is cool and interesting because it has a great superhero. Finally, it is based on a fairy tale and full of suspense.” And of course because the best thing about fairy tales is one can never have too many versions of one, this week we were overjoyed to welcome Bethan Woollvin’s Little Red into the feminist Red Riding canon, a book that won the Macmillan Prize in 2014.

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Woollvin’s illustrations reminded of Jon Klassen’s because while her style is very different, her approach is similar in its spareness, and also in how she uses her character’s eyes to provide emphasis to the understated text (which reminded me a lot in terms of rhythm and sentence structure of Mac Barnett’s in Extra Yarn).

And never ever has an illustrator put side-eye to such incredible use—Red Riding Hood’s facial expressions are magnificent.

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In the author’s biography, we learn that this story was born out of Woollvin’s own problem with the Red Riding Hood Story when she encountered it in childhood: what kind of a moron would be taken in by a wolf in a nightdress? Surely Red Riding Hood was smarter than that?

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And in this story, we see that she is. Red Riding Hood catches onto the Wolf’s preposterous posing as soon as any other smart, courageous girl does, and she comes up with a plan to deal with it on her own terms, no huntsman required. What transpires exactly between them is left up in the air, but we see Red Riding Home afterwards heading home in a wolf-suit—a most terrific homage of Sendak’s Max, I thought. It seems that girls can indeed be superheroes—and they can channel the ferocity of a wild thing too when it suits them.

Girl Power.

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2 thoughts on “Little Red, by Bethan Woollvin”

  1. kate says:

    i love when these tales are added to, dimension, instinct, personality… we have the girl who cried wolf on rotation here and my third grade boy came home from school, livid! because the kids at school thought it was the BOY who cried wolf… heeheh… sneaky moms everywhere rejoice!!

  2. I love the picture in which she’s rolling her eyes — looks a little like the heroine of the Persepolis graphic novels — a must have for my almost-three-year-old niece!

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