Children’s book authors constantly amaze me with the new characters and plot twists they dream up to delight their young audiences. There’s a reason why fairy tales have been popular for thousands of years, though. Their transcendent appeal means they can be adapted to different age groups, formats, and interests without losing their magic. I love the story of Red Riding Hood as an alternative to more princess-y options, and my kids and I have enjoyed sampling the many spin-off picture book versions. Here are six of our favorites:
Little Red Gliding Hood, by Tara Lazar and Troy Cummings
This title is my family’s most frequent storytime pick on this list. It features Little Red as an African American figure skating buff, who gets to her hip, yoga-pant-wearing grandmother’s house by skating down the frozen river that winds through the Enchanted Forest. She sets her heart on winning a new pair of skates in a local pairs skating competition, but there’s just one problem: she doesn’t have a suitable partner. She ends up shocking forest residents when she shows up with someone unexpected—someone with big eyes, sharp teeth, and you know the rest. In a surprise ending, everyone gets a lesson in acceptance, along with a spectacular skating show.
Ninja Red Riding Hood, by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Dan Santat
The desperate Big Bad Wolf hits the dojo to learn some new tricks for overpowering his prey. With his new prowess, he thinks Little Red and Granny are shoe-ins for his next meal, but he’s in for a surprise; Little Red has been honing her martial arts skills, too. The real star is Gran, who makes a hilariously foreboding entrance dressed in her gi, having just come from tai chi class. For my kids, lovers of both fairy tales and ninja stories, this title packs the perfect assemblage of appealing details from both genres.
Little Red Writing, by Joan Holub and Melissa Sweet
This story about a little red pencil on a mission to craft the perfect story is perfect for teachers looking for an innovative way to present characteristics of strong narrative writing. However, it’s engaging enough that my kids enjoy it simply as a fun story. Little Red’s journey isn’t through the forest, but a school, complete with a crafty canine posing as Principal Granny—actually a foreboding Wolf 3000 pencil sharpener—and Mr. Woodcutter, the janitor. Little Red has to employ some crafty moves to make it back to her classroom in time for all the pencils to share their stories. Of course, her tale earns the highest marks.
Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion, by Alex Smith
This title takes the classic fairy tale to the African savannah and includes a perfect mix of familiar details and new twists. Little Red’s walk to Aunt Rosie’s house is peppered with giraffes, gazelles and meerkats. The Very Hungry Lion is hot on her trail, licking his lips all the way, but he’s no match for smart Little Red. The fresh and clever illustrations and Little Red’s quick and creative thinking make this one another one of our household favorites.
Little Red, by Bethan Woollvin
This version keeps most of the familiar elements of classic Red Riding Hood stories, but amps up the feminist angle by eliminating any trace of a rescue by the Woodsman and putting the problem-solving squarely in Little Red’s small but capable hands. The bold black, white and red illustrations add to the empowered feel of the book. There are darker elements to a few of the illustrations, but I found they floated right over my younger kids’ heads. My oldest son appreciated the humor in details like the wolfish fur coat Little Red sports at the end.
Little Red Riding Hood Stories Around the World: 3 Beloved Tales, by Jessica Gunderson, Carolina Farías, Colleen Madden, Eva Montanari, and Terry Flaherty
The titles in the “Stories From Around the World” series are fantastic for broadening the horizons of fairy tale aficionados. This volume includes short tales from Germany, Italy and Taiwan. Be warned, they do err on the scary side, but will appeal to children who enjoy a little thrill. The book can be enjoyed in its entirety, which makes for a great opportunity to compare the different stories, or just one story at a time—a nice option on those nights you need to accelerate bedtime.
Which versions of Little Red Riding Hood are your favorites?