This Trendy Tuesday, I will be reviewing Little Red by Bethan Woollvin. Little Red is an updated version of the classic fairytale Little Red Riding Hood. This adventurous retelling was originally published in Great Britain in 2016 and, within the same year, made its way to the United States.
Along with the familiar story, the striking illustrations really drew me into this book. From just the cover art, it is easy to see that this version of Little Red is more mischievous than the classic character. When the reader removes the dust jacket, she is met with an equally bold illustration of the antagonist, the dreaded wolf. The aesthetic experience of this book continues with the end pages. They are created with the same combination of gouache and digital media as the rest of the illustrations, and have a “Where’s Waldo” style that would draw any curious child closer to the book.
The plot line of Little Red is similar to the classic tale in many ways. Little Red is sent by her mother to take some cake to her sick grandmother and sets off through the forest. Before long, she encounters a wolf, but she is, surprisingly, unafraid. Little Red and the wolf part ways, and the wolf eats Little Red’s Grandma and then lies in wait for Little Red. Instead of the naïve depictions of Little Red in other versions of Little Red Riding Hood, this little girl is observant and resourceful. When she notices the door of her grandmother’s house is already open, she peeks through the window and sees the wolf in her grandmother’s bed. Instead of quaking in fear, she forms a plan. She plays into the wolf’s scheme until he tries to eat her and she pulls out an ax. This Little Red does not need a passing woodsman to save her! Little Red frees her grandmother and walks back through the woods wearing the wolf’s fur, which, albeit morbid, is an empowered twist on a character who is usually a damsel in distress.
From the illustrations to the plot, from the end pages to the front cover, this book is certainly a step up from the versions of Little Red Riding Hood that I grew up with. Little Red is cunning and brave and a great protagonist, especially for young female readers. While the fractured retelling of classic fairytales is certainly a trend in children’s literature, I believe that powerful female protagonists are here to stay.