Skip to main content

Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood

Review

Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood

Readers looking for an adventure are sure to love traveling through the magical mountain setting in Liesl Shurtliff’s RED: The True Story of Red Riding Hood.  Red, in fear of her grandmother growing old and dying, strays from her path for the first time in order to find magic that will allow her grandmother to live forever.

On her adventure she meets many other characters that readers will recognize from other traditional fairy tales, but Shurtliff keeps the story fresh by adding plot twists to these famous tales. In the book, Red mentions that she was taught there are always at least two, if not more, sides to every story and Shurtliff definitely demonstrates that. For example, a dwarf reveals that the dwarves may not have really been all that fond of Snow White, the Beast ends up being a woman, Red’s grandmother is Rose Red, and, most surprising of all, she and Red are witches with magical abilities. In addition, there are very special twists in this story where characters who have been perceived as evil in the past are now portrayed as good. Likewise, characters who have been perceived as good become evil. While it may take some readers a moment to get over the initial shock of these twists, it is easy and fun to accept them as the true version of the story.

"Shurtliff keeps the story fresh by adding plot twists to these famous tales...While it may take some readers a moment to get over the initial shock of these twists, it is easy and fun to accept them as the true version of the story."

However, I question whether or not it was really necessary to use fairy tale characters to tell the bulk of the story. At times I felt it would have been more productive to tell this tale with original characters as Shurtliff at times strayed so far from the traditional fairy tale that I would forget that the main character was the famous Little Red Riding Hood. True, there are elements in RED that are customary to Red Riding Hood’s story, such as the sick grandmother, the red cloak, the wolf and the huntsman; but there are many more factors in the plot that have nothing to do with Red’s story, including her using magic to try and save her grandmother, meeting sprites and dwarves, bickering with Goldilocks and traveling to the Beast’s enchanted castle. Straying so much from the traditional plot and character raises the question whether or not it was really necessary to use Red Riding Hood as the character in this story or if another fairy tale or even an original character could have been easily substituted in her place.

The story also moves at a fast pace, switching from scene to scene quickly and fitting several events into just over 200 pages without a natural flow. Red and Goldie’s adventure would take them from one place to the next with little transition or conclusion. I also wonder if some scenes were really a necessary part of the story, such as meeting the wishing well witch. While I understand that Shurtliff may have been trying to stick to the fairy tale rule of three, it seemed Red didn’t gain, lose or learn anything by visiting the witch that she didn’t also learn from the dwarf or the beast. It would have been nice for Red to have gained something and spent more time at this scene, like she did with the others.

However, despite the few shortcomings in this book, it will still encourage Shurtliff’s readers to continue reading her books and gain many more fans, particularly girls who will be thrilled Shurtliff has chosen a familiar female character as the main character this time and other young readers who enjoy the fractured fairy tale trend.

Reviewed by Angela Warsinske on April 4, 2016

Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood
by Liesl Shurtliff