Gorgeously illustrated, The Little Red Wolf by Amelie Fléchais is a fun subversion of the well-known Little Red Riding Hood story. It follows the familiar idea of a child in a red cloak venturing into a deep, dark forest—but in this tale, it’s not a young child but a small wolf who grips a covered basket in hand (paw) while they make their way to their grandparent’s house to deliver a tasty treat.
As the story unfolds, the young wolf encounters a hunter, and the danger that comes from the meeting provides the central conflict of the story. In the end, the Little Red Wolf learns a bit about some important family history, and the reader is shown how biases color what we see, as well as how guilt and the desire for revenge can destroy lives.
The true magic of the book comes from Fléchais’s gorgeous illustrations. The panoramic paintings of the forest landscapes create a sense of magic and draw you into the story. She effectively uses color to change the mood of the forest, adding an extra element of drama. When the little wolf is at play, the forest is whimsical, full of animals, sunshine, and leaves. As the story darkens, the emotion of the forest transforms, transitioning to a place full of jagged branches and dark shadows.
The enchanting illustrations completely enraptured my daughter as we read it together. I found them completely compelling, too. Even if I hadn’t had a child at the perfect age for picture books, I would have been drawn to the book on the strength of the visual imagery alone. I would gladly buy prints of some of the illustrations from the story.
If the strong point of the book is the lush imagery, the weak part comes in the occasionally clunky flow of words. The book was originally written in French and translated by Jeremy Melloul, so it is not clear if the flawed flow is due to the phrasing used in the original text or the translation not being as poetic as it could be. Either way, I wish the text were as nice on the brain as the pictures were on the eyes.
While the story is not overly long, the illustrations bring the book up to 80 pages, and the desire to examine every detail make it a slightly longer read. It’s a good book to read to your little one while you’re both curled up in a comfortable chair and have a good 15 to 20 minutes to devote to the story. True to the traditional forms of fairy tales, The Little Red Wolf does have a somewhat darker end, so if you’re the parent of a younger child or one who is particularly sensitive, you may want to hold off on sharing this book until they’re a bit older.
The Little Red Wolf is published by Lion Forge, out October 3, 2017. It was originally released in France as Le Petit Loup Rouge.