Little Roja Riding Hood
by Susan Middleton Elya; illus. by Susan Guevara
Primary Putnam 32 pp.
4/14 978-0-399-24767-5 $16.99 g
Little Red rides an ATV to deliver la canasta (basket) to her ailing abuela in this hip updated version of the traditional tale. Liberally sprinkled with Spanish words and phrases, the rhyming text is fresh and funny (“‘Abue,’ he said in a high squeaky voz, / ‘I’m sorry to hear of your terrible tos’”) and often unexpected. (For example, “basket” is rhymed with “who asked it?”) And just as clever as the quirky text are the watercolor, ink, and gouache illustrations that contain plenty of humor and multiple layers of meaning. The Three Blind Mice accompany Little Roja on her journey, while three magpies follow and call out warnings that appear in flowing ribbons that act as dialogue bubbles. Two little trickster elves make mischief throughout. But best of all is Abuela herself, shown here as an aging hippie who appears to be working on a manuscript revision in her sick bed. She doesn’t really need rescuing — she protects herself by holding up a statue of St. Jude; Little Roja joins in by throwing a pot of hot sopa at the wolf. Once the wolf is vanquished, capable Abuela discourages future intruders by installing a security sistema, while Little Roja trades in her red hood for one with tiger stripes. An inventive spin on a familiar tale, this will stand up to repeated readings and viewings.
From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.