A modern twist on a classic fairy-tale, where the city rather than a wolf threatens to swallow up little girl, Red.
Red lives on the edge of the city with her mum and her dog, Woody. One day mum sends Red and Woody to take a cake to Grandma’s house. It should be easy enough to find their way – they just need to follow the heart flowers. Before they set out mum warns Red to stay on the path. Red, however, quickly get distracted. The city makes her hungry so she decides to nibble a bit of the cake. Soon she’s eaten it all. Red decides to buy Grandma some heart flowers instead. The shop, she decides, isn’t far from the path. It should be okay. But Red doesn’t account for how easy it is to become swallowed up by the city.
You thought you knew the story of Little Red Riding Hood? Think again. In this modern twist on the classic fairy-tale, it’s the city rather than the wolf who does the swallowing. The wolf is, however, ever present with sinister wolf shapes lurking on almost every page. Indeed, I thoroughly enjoyed searching out these sinister shadows. They’re there on the houses, at the front of the bus, around the shops, and in just about every sign. I particularly liked the way the wolf’s shadow is wrapped around the sign that first leads Red astray.
The story itself is well told in a small number words with clever use of positioning and different size text for impact, particularly when Red becomes lost. Author/illustrator, Marie Voigt, also manages to incorporate a version of the classic ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ refrains: for example, ‘Oh, city, what tempting food you have!’ ‘All the better to sicken you with’ and ‘Oh, city, what shocking news you have!’ ‘All the better to worry you with.’ This is accompanied by a strong moral about learning to do what you’ve been asked and to stick to the right path despite the temptations.
While the story is strong, it is the pictures that really make this book standout. The simple and highly stylised pictures are all black, grey and white with just a touch of red in Red’s cape, her dog’s collar and the flowers that lead the way. This works well to emphasise the sinister aspects of the city and those dark shadows of the wolf.
The pictures also make some interesting points about modern life, showing people engrossed in using their phones rather than communicating with each other, eating fast food and – the one that particularly amused me – taking money out of the wolf’s cash point that has an APR rate of 99%. These will, of course, all go over the heads of children but they are likely to amuse the adults.
If you enjoyed this, you might want to try one of Marie Voigt’s other picture books. The Light in the Night has a similar story while the pictures are entirely different (but equally impressive).
Date: February 2019
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Website: Marie Voigt