Two colors, minimal words, no grandma and a role reversal make for an eye-opening take on the traditional story.
The wolf is huge, angular, spiky. Red is tiny and round, a single line for a nose representing her features. Action starts immediately as the wolf swoops her up and announces, tying a napkin around his neck, that she is dinner. Threatened with the stew pot, Red engages him in the traditional grandma’s-cottage dialogue, pointing out what big eyes and ears and teeth he has, while he threatens her with ever-larger gestures. When he says, “[A]ll the better to eat you with!!!” she says, no, he has stinky breath. “I do?” She offers him a sweet. He swallows it and then—dies, very dramatically indeed. The last page—actually the final endpaper—faces Red directly at readers as she states, “[F]ool!” The minimalist pictures (the wolf and his words are black, Red and her words are red) are energetically scribbled on a white background, and the wolf’s end is fairly bloody, as children’s books go. Originally published in French and then in English in the U.K., it is as subversive a telling as can be imagined. In this country, it might be more appropriate for teens than children. Maybe.
It definitely conveys a sense of power and control that small children in red cloaks don’t often get to enjoy. Gruesomely satisfying. (Picture book. 6-12)