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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Red: The true story of RED RIDING HOOD, witten by Liesl Shurtliff. Alfred A Knopf, Random House. 2016. $21.99 ages 9 and up

"The tunnel smelled of stale earth and mold. Within five steps, we were submerged in pitch black. The only thing to guide us was the dwarf's insults echoing from the stone walls. It sounded like there were several dwarves speaking instead of one. I heard the words "ugly," "stupid," "vile," "putrid," "half-wit," and "witch" over and over." Goldie held tight to my hand, and Wolf walked closely ... "

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know that I really enjoyed Liesl Shurtliff's previous refashioned fairy tales - Rump (2013) and Jack (2015). Please add this new tale to your to-be-read list. It is a companion book to Rump, as it reintroduces Granny and Red from that first book.

Red has some pretty special powers, inherited from her Granny. She is somewhat reluctant to use them after a close call for Granny some years ago. Now, Granny is very ill; the potion that might make her well is called the Curious Cure-All. For the making, Red sets out to find: 5 prickly chestnuts, 1 handful of wild cherries, 1 bunch of gnomeswort, 1 drop of pixie venom, 1 pair of tree-nymph wings, 7 wolf hairs - all essential to its success.

Distracted by a grumpy dwarf with promises of eternal life should they gather the proper ingredients, Red changes course. With Goldie and Wolf as her companions, she determines that eternal life is a much more appealing alternative for a young woman never wanting to lose her much loved grandmother. It's pretty powerful magic and she needs to work quickly. Their journey forces them to realize that the dwarf has not been entirely forthright about the dangers they will face. As she becomes privy to those dangers, Red begins to wonder if her wish for Granny is in Granny's best interest. Each suggestion seems to come with excruciating results for the person they are meant to cure.

Magic both fair and foul, untold adventure, lasting friendship, bravery, life and death, and unconditional love are at the heart of this welcome addition to Ms. Shurtliff's entertaining and imaginative tales. It weaves a number of familiar stories into one, allowing for discussion between readers concerning the characters and those connections made.  

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