Little Red Writing

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Little Red Writing Book Poster Image
Brilliant fairy tale twist has mega-fun with words.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids will not only learn the parts of speech, many vocabulary words, and a little about capitalization and punctuation, they'll also get solid advice on how to write a story. Little Red's teacher at pencil school, Ms. 2, writes the basic "Story Path" on the blackboard: 1. Ideas, characters, setting; 2. Trouble; 3. Even bigger trouble; 4. Fix the trouble. 

Positive Messages

Writing is fun. Stories can be exciting and improved upon with the use of lively vocabulary. "Description adds pizzazz to any story," but don't get bogged down with it and stick to your "story path." There are also positive messages about taking risks and being brave. As Principal Granny says, "Even heroes get scared. But they do brave deeds anyway." The school rules on her door are good advice: "When in doubt: See something. Say something. Help others."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Little Red is upbeat, diligent, determined, and brave. The other pencils in her class also approach their writing task with great enthusiasm and cheer. Ms. 2 is a smart and helpful teacher.  

Violence & Scariness

The electronic Wolf 3000, "the grumpiest, growliest grindingest pencil sharpener ever made," chases Little Red menacingly until she throws the noun "dynamite" at it, causing it to explode and thereby saving the day. Principal Granny was "sharpened to smithereens" by the Wolf 3000 offstage before Red arrives, but the principal lives on, although she's a lot shorter.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Little Red Writing is a fun twist on the "Little Red Riding Hood" fairy tale that makes for a fun read-aloud book while imparting excellent creative-writing advice. This engaging picture book works on two levels: as a silly story with charming, funny characters, and as a sneaky way to broaden kids' vocabulary and teach them a bit about grammar, sentence structure, and story arcs. Older kids and word lovers may get more from the wordplay, while little ones may mainly enjoy the cute drawings and one big, dramatic (not scary) explosion. The menacing Wolf 3000 pencil sharpener is a bit scary in a very cartoonish way.

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What's the story?

In writing class at pencil school, Little Red decides to write a story about bravery, \"because red is the color of courage.\" Her teacher, Ms. 2, gives her a basket of 15 red nouns to use in case she runs into trouble and warns her to \"stick to your basic story path so you don't get lost.\" As she goes on her journey, Red encounters all sorts of words -- adjectives in the descriptive forest, conjunctions in a supply closet filled with \"glue words\" such as \"and,\" \"so,\" and \"but,\" adverbs that arrive \"suddenly,\" and so on. In a clever play on the familiar \"Little Red Riding Hood\" climax, Little Red goes to see Principal Granny and finds at her desk an imposter: the Wolf 3000, a life-threatening electric pencil sharpener that has ground the real Principal Granny down to the nub. Can Little Red find a word that will save her and her story?

Is it any good?

This is a fun twist on the familiar fairy tale and a word lover's delight, with buckets of vocabulary words and fun, silly characters scampering across Melissa Sweet's antic, engaging illustrations. The spot-on writing advice is good enough to inspire school lesson plans or creative writing projects at home. Yet the lighthearted tale also works as a fun adventure for little ones.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about fairy tale twists. How is this story like "Little Red Riding Hood"? What's different, and what's the same? 

  • What's fun about books that play with words? Have you read any others? 

  • Write a story following the "story path" rules in this book, and use some of the action verbs Little Red found in the school gym.

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