|Albert Whitman, 2019|
When a little girl with a natural gift for rhyming is teased by a playground bully, Big Brad Wolf, she confides in her grandma that she longs to talk the everyone else does. Grandma boosts her spirits with a red hoodie and news of a poetry contest. With new-found confidence, Little Red embravces her talent and her new nickname, Little Red Rhyming Hood. She gnores the taunts of Big Brad Wolf.
She hopes to make some friends at the poetry event, but...
Brad finally manages to startle her, and when he does- he scares the rhyming right out of her! In an ironic twist of fate, Brad is
suddenly "stuck" in rhyming mode while Red is not, leaving them both unhappy. Red is unable to enter the poetry contest, and Brad is miserable, demanding help. In the process, they discover they can alternate lines and rhyme together. As a rhyming team they win first prize, and find themselves actually enjoying each other's company.
There's fun to be had in this clever mashup of a familiar tale, word play, and a narrative that combines prose text with intermittent rhymes- not an easy thing to pull off. Fans of the author's many other titles may wonder if there's a touch of autobiography in this latest Red character, but Fliess demonstrates that her storytelling transcends both prose and poetry.
The real strength of this book will be for readers/audiences who are familiar with the underlying, traditional folk tale, Red Riding Hood, which comes in MANY versions. There is actually a concern that many children today are growing up without hearing/reading these previously ubiquitous tales.
For a brief insight as to WHY we should make it a point to keep these traditional cultural touchpoints in the lives and literature of young people, check this out.
Meanwhile, this story has contemporary relevance even for those not aware of the baseline tales. It will be a richer, more humorous, and funnier book for those with that broader folk tale experience, so I hope it will prompt a deep dive into the many versions and fractured approaches to the tale. And I'd love to be a fly on the wall as those readings and discussions emerge.