Little Red, by Bethan Woollvin; Peachtree Publishers, $16.95, 32 pages, ages 3-6.
Wolves remain popular subjects in picture books this year–check out our October write-up on the topic–and in this sly retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, the wolf cuts a mean figure. In debut picture-book creator Bethan Woollvin’s hands, however, the menacing wolf meets his match. Swathed in scarlet red from head to toe, Little Red is nobody’s fool, and when she crosses the wolf en route to her grandmother’s house, our plucky heroine knows right away what he’s planning to do, and won’t let him get away unpunished for it, either. A chance wolf encounter might scare some little girls away, “but not this little girl,” says the narrator. (This refrain is repeated throughout, highlighting Little Red’s steely composure.) Little Red follows the traditional storyline, but, as with any retelling, there’s a twist–take a wild guess who wields the axe in this version and comes home with a brand-new fur coat. (Grandma, sadly, never comes back.)
Bold graphic gouache illustrations rendered in black, white, red, and gray have a strong, slightly retro feel, and Little Red, with her unsmiling, unfazed demeanor would fit right into any Jon Klassen book.
An edgy re-examination of an already twisted fairy tale, Little Red shows that smart girls can take care of themselves.