Friday, December 03, 2010

Cloaked in Red

Cloaked in RedCloaked in Red Vivian Vande Velde

From the introduction (after several hilarious pages deconstructing "Little Red Riding Hood"

Okay, think about this. What makes a good story?

1. Memorable characters

We've got a mother, Little Red Riding Hod, a wolf, a grandmother, and a woodcutter. It's hard to call characters memorable when the only one who has a name is, in fact, named after apparel that nobdoy wears anymore.

2. Vivid setting

The woods. Okay, are we talking Amazon rain forest here or a couple of trees in someone's backyard? It's sloppy storytelling if we aren't given enough information to picture where our memorable characters are.

3. Exciting plot

Try submitting a story to your creative writing teacher in which the main character bumbles cluelessly throughout the story, then gets rescued by another character who was never mentioned before. Go ahead and keep your fingers crossed for a passing grade.

4. Important themes--something about the subject to captivate our imaginations and connect with those who read the story.

It's hard to determine the theme of "Little Red Riding Hood." Don't go into the woods? Don't talk to animals who are capable of talking back? If you're going to make fun of your grandmother's appearance, make sure it truly is your grandmother and not a wolf who likes to dress in old-ladies' clothes?

However you look at it, "Little Red Riding Hood" is a strange and disturbing story that should probably not be shared with children.

That is why I've gone ahead and written eight new versions of it.

And eight wonderful new versions is what Vande Velde gives us. We have sinister wood cutters and bumbly blind ones. We have girls in the wood who are unsure of themselves and those who know exactly what they are doing. We have wolves of hunger, friendly wolves, werewolves, and wolves made of rags. We have cloaks that are smarter than their owners, cloaks that are altogether the wrong shade of red, and even one that is actually green.

Vande Velde takes us through several versions of the story, all of which make a lot more sense than the original. It's often funny and at times a bit scary. Each story focuses on a different aspect of the story-- Red's family, the woodcutter, grandmother, the wolf, the cloak... all with excellent results.

I love Vande Velde's take on the issues with the original and her ideas on how to fix the story. I enjoyed every version and this is a must-read for fairy tale fans.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Dreamybee said...

I love it when an author is able to take bits of a familiar story and turn it into something brand new, not to mention eight somethings brand new!

Peaceful Reader said...

This is very intriguing as I agree that Red Riding Hood is not a lovable story. I'll have to look for it at my library!