The Little Red Wolf by Amelie Flechais was given to me by Net Galley to review. It will be published on October 3rd, 2017.
Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of alternative fairy tales. The topic of fairy tales is regularly picked in primary schools to help introduce children to fiction, and I’ve helped find the books to teach it on several occasions.
One of the great joys of sourcing books for the topic is the fact that we are blessed with so many alternative takes to traditional stories, and stories from many countries and faiths are now included in the mix to give a really diverse flavour to the topic. Every time I’ve seen it taught there has been some new element to the teaching that makes the topic vital and relevant to children today, as well as sharing with them stories that delighted children of many generations before them.
As a result I was really looking forward to reading The Little Red Wolf.
I have to say that the story is beautifully illustrated. The images are very special indeed. Flechais’ work has an ethereal quality that brings a real depth to her words and is visually very appealing indeed. I spent a long time looking at the artwork and I feel that it’s something you could come back to time and time again and always find something new, rich and strange.
The story however, was somewhat difficult for me. Firstly the language was fairly advanced in places, for a story that usually gets taught and shared with early years and pre school children. I can see how you could teach this as an alternative reading to older children, but that would make it a fairly niche product.
Secondly, I understand that fairy tales can be dark, and tracing them back to Charles Perrault, it’s pretty clear they were not really meant for children originally. That is not where we are today, however, and as I imagined myself having to explain to children the wolf’s diet of rabbits, and how the book ricochets between cutesy rabbits and then crunching rabbit’s paws, and scattering bones, I found the whole thing a bit tricky.
I think it’s great that Flechais has reversed the roles in this re-telling. The wolf is the hero of the piece, and much like The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas, there is much value in this topsy turvy take on things. What’s more difficult for me is that the tone is uneven. The artwork is ethereal and at times quite cutesy, but the words undercut that cuteness in quite a grim way that may need some talking through with children as you read.
Similarly the whole second half of the story with the soulless, evil child was quite problematic. Flechais’ text here strays even further from the more cartoonish qualities that water down the impact of the traditional tale and make it macabre and troubling. I personally don’t have a problem with macabre and troubling, but it did make me wonder what age group the book is really supposed to be for.