In Wenger’s children’s novel, Little Red Riding Hood is at it again—off to Grandmother’s house; this time, though, she promises not to speak to strangers.
With memories of the Big Bad Wolf still looming, Little Red once again sets off on a trip through the shadowy forest to Grandmother’s house. Unfortunately for Little Red, the “strawberry, lemon, cherry, and plum, coconut, kiwi, and blue-buttery-fun” cake that she’s bringing to Grandmother’s attracts lots of attention from strangers: a gray mouse, a bird, a porcupine and a duck. None of them can resist the cake’s yummy smell and shiny candy decorations, and each promises Little Red something in exchange for a piece. Eager for company in the increasingly dark forest, she agrees to allow the animals to accompany her to Grandmother’s house, but only after asking each of them if they are “of good manners and fine repute.” Little Red is reminded by Platter (upon whom the cake is balanced) that she promised not to talk to strangers. But to Little Red, the small animals of the forest are harmless; it’s the wolves she need fear. And sure enough, Little Red does—once again—run into a wolf. Wenger’s tale is filled with catchy rhymes that impart a rhythm to the story, balancing fun and humor with a dark undercurrent of suspense. The illustrations, also by Wenger, are effective but feel a bit rushed. Though the lesson of not speaking to strangers gets lost in this telling, as Little Red repeatedly speaks to strangers without suffering any negative consequences, young readers will learn the value of friendship. Each member of Little Red’s caravan eventually proves to be a worthy friend by playing an important role. Platter, for example, motivates Little Red to continue the journey even when she is most afraid. By the end of the story, the travelers learn the importance of getting to know someone before passing judgment on them.
A fun fairy tale with an enduring message: friends come in all shapes and sizes—and they all love cake.