Title: Cloaked in Red
Author: Vivian Vande Velde
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish
Year Published: 2011
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So you think know the story of Little Red Riding Hood, the girl with the unfortunate name and the inability to tell the difference between her grandmother and a member of a different species? Well, then, try your hand at answering these questions:
-Which character (not including Little Red herself) is the most fashion challenged?
-Who (not including the wolf) is the scariest?
-Who (not including Granny) is the most easily scared?
-Who is the strangest? (Notice we’re not “not including” anyone, because they’re all a little off.)
-Who (no fair saying “the author”) has stuffing for brains?
Vivian Vande Velde has taken eight new looks at one of the world’s most beloved (and mixed-up) stories. You may never look at fairy tales in quite the same way again. – (Goodreads)
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*Since this book is made up of eight relatively short stories, there is probably going to be SPOILERS here.
I’ve been eyeing this book for roughly a year or so, but I could never bring myself to pay the $12 I always tended to see it priced as and I wasn’t much for paying for digital books at the time (I tended to wait and see what I could find on promotion on Amazon for free). It wasn’t until I lent a friend a copy of The Changeling Prince, also by this author (and that I also have not read), and listened to her talk excitedly about it and how she read it three times in about the two weeks she had it, that I caved in getting this book. (It also helped that it was an special promotion in the Amazon Kindle store that month for $1.99). I am very happy that I purchased and read this book as I thought it was rather imaginative, especially since there are eight very different retellings of a single fairytale, Little Red Riding Hood.
1) The Red Cloak – This one is about a shy girl, who prefers to blend into the background, but one day her lovey-dovey dyes her oatmeal colored cloak, a bright, look-at-me, red. She is severely embarrassed about this, so when her mother asks her to deliver dinner to her grandmother, and since she does not want to hurt her mother’s feelings, she wears the cloak on the way, but in order to avoid people seeing her in it she walks through the woods instead of close to the village like normal. This proves to be a bad decision as she runs into some trouble with a woodcutter who wants to kidnap her and use her for ransom. This was a great tale to start off with! I loved how it did a reverse roles thing and made the hero of the original tale the villain and, to some extent, the villain of the original tale the hero.
2) The Red Riding Hood Doll – This tale was very interesting in the fact that Little Red Riding Hood doesn’t start off as a real person, but a doll. A young seamstress, who works with her mother, is unhappy and wishes for a child of her own in hopes the child will love her as much as she loves it. So, in a fit of rebellion the young seamstress, Georgette, makes a life-like doll with a red cloak. Still the doll is not alive, which prompts her to go to a field that she heard had magic powers and she makes a wish to give the doll life. This is a classic example of ‘be careful what you wish for.’ The doll, now a beautiful girl, ditches her creator/mother to go off with some boys. I did not like this tale as much as the first or some of the others as I felt Georgette’s overall reaction to the now girl leaving was rather bland. She put so much heart into making this doll and refuses to sell it, but when it comes alive and simply leaves, she brushes it off almost like it was nothing.
3) Little Red Riding Hood’s Family – This one puts even a more supernatural spin on the tale, it turns out old granny… well, she’s a werewolf. And Roselle (Red Riding Hood)? Yeah, she’s a witch. This one was probably my least favorite out of all eight of these stories. It had great potential, but just sort of turned into a frog at the end. The whole revelation about the grandmother was done poorly and what I mean by this is Roselle knows her grandmother is a werewolf, but before we find out of her granny’s full moon problem, and she enters the house and wonders what all the funny noises are and where her sick grandmother is – it is like she didn’t know at all herself. Not to mention she just turns a seemingly random vampire into a frog… What?
4) Granny and the Wolf – I really loved this tale because it shows how strong and kind people can be. Red Riding Hood’s grandmother, a rich widow, is supremely kind and believes one most show kindness to all. She saves a wolf, which subsequently follows her home, and it leads to problems, but in the end is able to keep the wolf a secret and chase away her gold digger suitor. I just really loved the grandmother in this one so much!
5) Deems the Wood Gatherer – This one is my absolute favorite retelling! It follows the woodcutter instead of Red Riding Hood or her grandmother and mentions other fairy tales like the Three Little Pigs and Hansel and Gretel. Unfortunately, for all the other nice characters involved, the woodcutter has very poor eyesight, and where he thinks he is helping he just ends up ruining the lives of those around him, except for the wolf’s. Those poor pigs… I really enjoyed this one because of that. Here you have this generally nice man helping others, but unknowingly destroying their livelihoods, and thinking they would have been lost without him.
6) Why Willy and His Brother Won’t Ever Amount to Anything – This one also didn’t leave much of an impression on me, like number two. It’s a very quick story about two boys Isolda, Red Riding Hood, and her family know and how they live to completely in a fantasy world that they don’t even really see the actual world before them. They only amount to becoming writers. This story just seemed lacking especially when compared to some of the others, but it did hold slight humorous charm.
7) The Little Red Headache – I felt extremely bad for the wolf in this one! He is so nice, yet because of the speaking barrier, he is unable to communicate is good intentions causing horrible misunderstandings between him and Little Red Riding Hood. He just wants to give her back her basket for crying out loud! I really did enjoy this tale quite a lot. I loved how it played on the wolf just being a misunderstood character.
8) Little Red Riding Hood’s Little Red Riding Hood – This is probably my second favorite tale and it has a Sleeping Beauty feel to it, I suppose. A fairy godmother means to part the gift of intelligence on a newly born girl, but accidental gives this gift to a red cloak, which she then gifts to the baby instead (do to her old age the fairy godmother can only grant one wish per day). The cloak keeps the girl out of trouble through the years, even though she is a total brat, and changes it’s form (lighter in the summer and thicker in the winter) when the need arises. The girl treats it like crap and it eventually slithers away when she unwittingly releases it from it’s bond. Loved it! It even has a very brief and vague reference to Superman. It was great that the cloak was very loyal and duty bond, but was also essentially trapped.
Sorry, that this review had a good number of spoilers, but I didn’t really know how else I could talk about this book. Overall, I found these stories to be very enjoyable and quick reads and would recommend them to anyone who enjoys retellings of fairy tales, Little Red Riding Hood in-particular. However, if you are looking for anything in-depth, I would avoid this work, as there is no real world or character building. They are just pure fun.
Rating: 4 out of 5