If the phrase, “The better to eat you with!” struck terror in your childhood heart, fear not, these inventive retellings of the classic Little Red Riding Hood story will delight your little ones. The Brothers Grimm were especially gifted at creating dark and often haunting fairy tales, but these books below have a bit more gentle appeal. They also may serve as a great conversation starter with your children about the inherent danger of talking to strangers. As the moral of the folktale advises, children should beware of the charming and kind wolf perhaps most of all.
The Story of Little Red Riding Hood by those daring Grimm brothers (beautifully illustrated by Christopher Bing whose youngest daughter modeled for little Red) comes in an old-fashioned album meant to capture the timeless quality of the story. A cautionary tale, including the original black and white illustrated version from 1857, is inserted as a fold-out in the back of the book complete with the underlying moral.
In Betsy Red Hoodie by Gail Carson Levine, the talented author of Ella Enchanted, brings a new spin on the story. Accompanied by her wise-cracking sheep to Grandma’s house, Betsy encounters many obstacles and diversions on her path. Grandma has an unexpected surprise in store for Betsy when she finally arrives at her home. This is the second installment of Betsy’s plucky adventures (preceded by Betsy Who Cried Wolf!) with comic illustrations by Scott Nash.
Bernadette Watts paints a colorful, wondrous forest filled with wildflowers that tempt Little Red Riding Hood to pick a lovely bouquet for her grandmother. The wolf meets a gruesome end when the huntsman cuts him open to rescue them and they fill his belly full of stones. It almost makes one feel sorry for the wolf… so fiendish wolves better watch out for hunters with an ax to grind.
In his bold inventive book, acclaimed artist Daniel Egneus recreates a gothic wonderland for Little Red Riding Hood to explore. This fascinating video demonstrates his creative process and how he researched and brought this 17th century tale to life with a romantic Milanese look and feel.
Jerry Pinkney is well-known for his award-winning children’s books. The Talking Eggs is a favorite in our home. With gorgeous illustrations and a rich gift for storytelling, his Little Red Riding Hood is perhaps the most elegantly written among these various selections. Clever children will be well-advised to do as Red Riding Hood is told, by both her mother and grandmother, and remember to, “be certain to go straight home.”
Although not a true retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, The Gunniwolf by Wilhelmina Harper tells a somewhat similar story of a little girl who encounters a wolf and repeatedly sings him to sleep until she can escape to her home. This is a favorite of storytellers due to its lilting onomatopoeic phrasing of the little girls’ tune, “kum-kwa, khi-wa” and the “hunker-cha, hunker-cha” of the gunniwolf’s chase. The richly drawn original 1967 version may be available in your local library.
Russian author Gennady Spirin’s exquisitely detailed illustrations, inspired by the golden age of Dutch painting in the 17th century and the Renaissance, recreate Little Red Riding Hood’s more traditional, yet perhaps also more sumptuous, setting. Children will feel as if they were transported back in time as they pore over this stunning book’s pages.
All of these titles should provide endless amusement for the whole family. So just as grandmother would say, don’t stray from the path to your local bookstore or library and be certain to use your big eyes and ears to better see and hear these enchanting stories.
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Nicki Richesin is the editor of four anthologies,What I Would Tell Her: 28 Devoted Dads on Bringing Up, Holding On To, and Letting Go of Their Daughters; Because I Love Her: 34 Women Writers Reflect on the Mother-Daughter Bond; Crush: 26 Real-Life Tales of First Love; and The May Queen: Women on Life, Work, and Pulling it all Together in your Thirties. Her anthologies have been excerpted and praised in The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle,The Boston Globe, Redbook, Parenting, Cosmopolitan, Bust,Salon, Daily Candy, and Babble.