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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

little red hood, written and illustrated by Marjolaine Leray. Translation from the French by Sarah Ardizzone. Phoenix Yard Books, 2010. $13.99 ages 8 and up


what big ears
you've got!

all the better
to hear you with..."

Little Red Riding Hood has often needed help to get herself out a jam that was a bit self-inflicted. Well, her mother did tell her not to stray from the path on the way to her grandmother's house with food for the poor old woman. In some versions of the traditional tale it is the grandmother who saves the day. In many of the versions I have read, it is the woodsman who comes to their rescue. He opens the greedy wolf's stomach and releases grandmother and granddaughter from certain digestion!

Here is a little red-hooded girl who needs no such help. She is perfectly capable of taking care of herself, and she does. She does it with panache, and a touch of ghastly humor.

When she meets him, she is looking contrite, and he stands in her way. As she passes, he reaches out to grab her and with great glee, carries her home in hopes that she will provide the sustenance he so badly needs. He drops her on the table, ties on his bib and opens his big, toothy mouth! She is nonplussed, and is quick to point her finger at him and mention his big ears. He is taken aback, and offers a suitable response. Then, it's on to his hairiness, his eyes and finally his teeth.

He is done with talking...and she has no intention of being a small bite of dinner for the ugly, stinky-breathed wolf. She offers a sweet to help with his breath, then watches as he becomes the tricked rather than the trickster. Ah, sweet revenge!

The story is perfection...and then there are the illustrations! As you can see from the cover, there is a lot of scribbling going on here, and those scribbles perfectly match the tone of this wonderful tale. The two characters are ideally placed on each page, which boasts a lot of white space. The wolf and the girl (the red of her cape holds our attention throughout) are detailed without a hint of an extra line. The wolf is full of expression, while we see little of the girl except in the demeanor occasioned by her body movements. She hints at innocence at every turn...then BAM!

We would be 'fool's not to love it!

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