Book: Ninja Red Riding Hood
Author: Corey Rosen Schwartz
Illustrator: Dan Santat
Age Range: 3-5
Ninja Red Riding Hood, written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and illustrated by Dan Santat, is a version of Little Red Riding Hood in which the wolf, after getting picked on for a while, sneaks into o ninja school to be trained. He figures that with his new skills, Little Red Riding Hood will be an easy target. However (as any astute reader will be expecting from the title and cover), it turns out that Red also has ninja training. Even Gran turns out to know tai chi, and the wolf is utterly defeated.
I had mixed feeling about Ninja Red Riding Hood. It's nice to see a Red Riding Hood who can defend herself, and a little old granny who can defend herself. And I can see the various details about martial arts being of interest to kids (and perhaps even driving interest in martial arts). It's a nicely multicultural book, too, with what appears to be an Asian setting (Japanese, perhaps?). But the end of the book, in which the wolf is forced to give up red meat, and enrolls in a mediation retreat, felt like a bit ... much. Is the author trying to get an anti-red meat message out there, or is it just meant to be a lesson for the carnivorous wolf?
That said, it's a fun read-aloud, with some advanced vocabulary, and a bouncy (but not rigid) rhyme scheme:
"Drooling with anticipation,
he set off in search of some meat.
While deep in the wood,
he met Riding Hood.
"I'm bringing my
grandma a treat."
The wolf licked his chops when he saw her
and hastily thought up a plan.
"There are blossoms that way!
You can pick a bouquet!
to give to your little old gran.""
Here the second paragraph is in a text bubble from Riding Hood, and the last is in a text bubble from the wolf. This format takes a tiny bit of getting used to - the rhymes carrying across narrative text and dialog - but it worked fine for us.
Santat's illustrations ("done with Sumi brush work on rice paper and completed in Adobe Photoshop"), are action-filled, with a moderately cartoon-like aspect. The disguised wolf in his ninja school clothing and glasses is quite funny. The forest in which the wolf finds Red features trees of bamboo, adding to the Asian feel of the story. When dressed as Gran, the wolf holds a painted fan, and her house looks Japanese. Red, once she loses her cape, is feisty and pig-tailed, while Gran looks downright tough.
Ninja Red Riding Hood is a modern, diverse twist on an old story, with read-aloud-friendly text and dynamic illustrations.
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (@PenguinKids)
Publication Date: July 10, 2014
Source of Book: Library copy, checked out for Round 1 Cybils consideration in Fiction Picture Books. All opinions are my own.
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