Review of Little Red and the Cat Who Loved Cake

Little Red and the Cat Who Loved Cake
by Barbara Lehman; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Clarion/HarperCollins    64 pp.    g
11/21    978-0-358-31510-0    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-358-31663-3    $13.99

Lehman’s (The Red Book, rev. 9/04) latest is an inventive retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood” — wordless save for signage and with thought/speech bubbles containing only images (and occasional punctuation). The endpapers having clued us in that we are in the realm of fairy tale and nursery rhyme, the story begins. Wolfie the cat gazes hopefully at the cake that baker Big Red and his child Little Red are making, only to be sadly disappointed when Big Red puts the finished cake into a basket for Grandmother. As Little Red (carefully nongendered) makes the journey through town — past a host of nursery-rhyme and fairy-tale characters and punnily named shops — to Grandmother’s house, Wolfie surreptitiously follows, humorously hiding in plain sight whenever Little Red pauses to chat with, say, Jack and Jill (whose speech bubble contains an image of a pail) or Little Boy Blue (a trumpet). Eventually Wolfie sprints ahead, dons a disguise, and crawls into Grandmother’s bed. Little Red and Grandmother are onto Wolfie, however, and all ends well with the trio happily sharing cake. Throughout, Lehman offers entrancing details for keen-eyed viewers to notice (so many, in fact, that there’s a key at the back). But the wealth of detail never distracts from the story’s trajectory, thanks in part to the consistency of Little Red’s speech bubbles (picturing Grandmother) and Wolfie’s thought bubbles (cake) — until near the end, when they hug goodbye and the bubbles all contain red hearts. Another triumph from a master of wordless picture books.

From the January/February 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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