When I first read Little Red Reading Hood by Lucy Rowland and Ben Mantle (Macmillan Children’s Books), I knew that it would be the perfect World Book Day book. Lucy Rowland has created a wonderful fractured version of Little Red Riding Hood, swapping Red’s basket full of goodies for an overdue library book, Grandma for a librarian, and Grandma’s cottage in the woods for the local library. The wolf awaits Little Red there, having tied up the librarian, but his plans are quickly thwarted by the two bookworms. But rather than villainize him, they convince him that he can get reclaim his story and destiny and rewrite his happy ending.
It is a glorious celebration of books, stories and libraries and librarians (who do really save the day, every day), told in wonderful rhyming text and is an absolute joy to read. Using a familiar platform of the fairy-tale, Rowland allows her message about books and libraries to come through loud and clear. As well as the message that stories belong to their readers, there is also a more subtle message that stories make us more empathic, but also that we should not let ourselves be defined by what others expect of us. This spurs the Wolf to change his attitude not only towards books, but also others, and especially his nemesis, the three little pigs.
Ben Mantle’s artwork is wonderful, bringing a real contemporary feel to the traditional setting. He is really successful at creating a visual representation of what happens to our imagination as we are reading, with a golden glow of magic literally coming out of the page:
It is so wonderfully effective.
The transformative effect of books of reading is also highlighted in the artwork thanks to the endpapers framing the narrative. First readers see Little Red entering the wood, which signals the beginning of the tale. This is followed by a double-spread showing her reading at home in different situations, using the same hues of orange as those used for the visual representation of reading. On the other side of the story, readers see two mirroring spreads, one of Wolf and the little pigs enjoying being friends and finally one Wolf following a signpost to the library.
This framing of the story really highlights the transformative effect of reading on Wolf, not only as a reader but a social being.
I was very interested to find more about how this story came to life, and I was delighted that Lucy agreed to write a guest post for Library Mice.
The Magic of Books
by Lucy Rowland
This morning, as I was slowly waking up and lazily scrolling through my Twitter feed, I saw a poster about the ways that parents can support their children to read. And the number one tip?….
‘Let your child see you reading!’ It sounds like a simple idea but it’s true. Children mimic what they see by copying the models around them. They learn what they live.
It got me thinking about some of the fantastic displays I’ve seen in schools. I remember a great ‘Teachers caught reading’ display, with photographs of the school staff reading in funny places, such as up a tree or in a cupboard. There was a ‘Footballers Favourites’ display showing famous footballers talking about their top children’s books and a brilliant ‘Celebrities into reading’ wall. All these initiatives help to promote the fact that it’s good to read, that it’s fun to read and even that it’s cool to read… and this, I believe, is the first step! So next, perhaps it’s about giving children some reasons why reading is so wonderful? In the children’s book industry we love books about books! We love stories that have positive images of reading and positive images of libraries and it’s sometimes through these books that children learn why reading is important.
So why do we read?
For bonding and for that special, cosy, comfy time that we share with the people we love:
And of course….for MAGIC!
As Stephen King says ‘Books are a uniquely portable magic’. Dr Seuss also summed it up quite nicely… ‘You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.’
Of course, we don’t only get magic from reading books but also from making up our own stories. Twists on fairy tales are great because they allow children to see that we can ‘play with stories’. In Little Red Reading Hood I really wanted to explore this theme further and show that ‘stories can end anyway that you please’. By allowing Wolf to make up a new ending of his own, we are not only showing children that the path is never completely laid out for you, that there is power in the choices we make, but we’re also encouraging children to have fun with stories. Ben Mantle’s beautiful ‘fairy tale mash-up’ illustrations show just how different a story can be if we mix things up a little bit.
When Ben and I do story workshops, we try to highlight this theme by taking along story-telling dice and fairy tale puzzles that fit together in any order the children like. We also encourage the children to help us make up a brand new story for the Wolf. And these stories really do go anywhere! The wolf meets…an astronaut? Sure! Why not!
I always hoped that Little Red Reading Hood would emphasise the magic of books and would inspire children to dream up their own stories. I’ve been so thrilled by the comments that Ben and I receive on Twitter suggesting that, in some cases, this is exactly what’s happening! One year 2 teacher recently said that a week on from reading her class Little Red Reading Hood, she found some children looking through the book and creating their own imaginative journeys! Now, what could be more magical than that?
Thank you so much Lucy!
You can find Lucy on Twitter.
Little Red Reading Hood is out now and you can purchase a copy here.