Red and the City

Red and the City
Marie Voigt
Oxford Children’s Books

If you thought you knew the story Little Red Riding Hood, then think again. I certainly thought I was pretty familiar with a considerable number of versions both traditional and the ‘fractured’ variety, (especially as this blog is a variation on the name), but Marie Voight’s is something altogether different.

Red has now become sufficiently trustworthy and grown up to visit her Grandma on her own.Taking a cake as a present for her gran and Woody the dog as company, she begins by following her mum’s instructions to “Follow the heart flowers”, cross the road carefully, stay on the path, and not speak to anyone.

Hunger pangs however strike and Red decides to have just a small piece of the cake; but it’s an especially tasty one and pretty soon, the child has devoured the whole thing.

She decides to buy her Grandma some flowers as a gift instead. This means just a small, brief diversion from the path or so she tells Woody.
Soon though, Red has completely forgotten about her mission and instead wanders here and there making a purchase but not of flowers;

and before long she is utterly lost and in the grip of the consumerist urban wolf.

Indeed, she’s swallowed up.

Suddenly a bark wakens her and remembering what really matters, Red finds her own way back onto the path and eventually reaches her Grandma’s home, albeit rather late in the day.

All ends happily with talk and cake – one Grandma has specially baked for the occasion earlier – and a bedtime story … I wonder what that might have been.

This contemporary telling of the traditional tale is, can you believe, Marie Voigt’s picture book debut and what a delicious one it is.

From start to finish, children will simply adore discovering the wolvish elements in her scenes as they relish Marie’s telling, whether or not they fully appreciate the issues of consumerism and self-determination that older readers might.
The limited colour palette is perfect for the story and the special loving bond between Grandma and Red shines through in the final spreads.

Blue Monster Wants It All!

Blue Monster Wants It All!
Jeanne Willis and Jenni Desmond
Little Tiger Press

We live in a throwaway, consumer society where the desire for the new, and the notion that the next thing is always better, tend to prevail.
Jeanne Willis and Jenni Desmond have created a timely and eloquent picture book fable that demonstrates the folly of this thinking.
Meet Blue Monster, thoroughly indulged by his parents the never satisfied creature discards them and his new sibling, and takes off with all his money to begin life anew. However although he’s left behind his old life, he’s taken his acquisitive habits with him.

But new hats, cars, luxury palaces, an aeroplane, and a tropical island with amazing animals no less, fail to satisfy.

Even the sunshine itself cannot bring him happiness.
It’s not until he finds himself surrounded by darkness that somehow, in his abject misery, Blue Monster finally realises what he needs for true contentment and well-being. But is it too late?

Jenni Desmond adeptly portrays the monster and his constantly changing moods and emotions – his tantrums, his decadence, his dissatisfaction and his supreme sadness, all of which are part and parcel of Jeanne Willis’ thought-provoking text.
Although we know that the creature has brought in all on himself, you cannot help but be moved by the sight of him in his desolation.
What is most important to you, the latest smartphone or tablet, a brand new car or the love of your family and friends?
Perhaps it takes a powerful picture book such as this, which has as much to say to adults as to children, to make us all stop and think?