A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this mature retelling of the "Little Red Riding Hood" story is a novelization of the movie starring Amanda Seyfried. It centers on a red-cloaked heroine who's being stalked by a werewolf; there's lots of violence, including animal sacrifice, the torture of a mentally disabled boy who's suspected of witchcraft, a wolf's attacks on a village, the severing of an arm, and more. Valerie and Peter share some steamy kisses and do ultimately "give in to each other," though sex is pretty much undescribed.
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What's the story?
The villagers in Valerie's rough hometown have always sacrificed animals to appease the Wolf, but when it brutally kills a human being -- Valerie's sweet older sister -- the truce ends and the village men hunt the creature they've long feared. They think they've killed it, but when a famous werewolf hunter comes to town, he reveals to them an unbelievable truth: the wolf they killed is an ordinary lupine -- but the werewolf they seek roams among them every day in human form ("The real killer could be your neighbor. Your best friend. Even your wife.") Suspicion grows between neighbors, and circles around Valerie, who can understand the wolf's growls -- and that it wants her to come away with it. Meanwhile, Valerie finds herself suspecting the wolf could be either her kind fiance or the dark mysterious man she really loves -- she even suspects her own grandmother.
Is it any good?
This is not great literature, but there are enough fun twists to keep readers engaged as they hunt the true werewolf stalking Daggorhorn -- and Valerie. This book is based on the same screenplay that inspired the 2011 movie, and it's full of cinematic images. Readers will be able to easily picture Valerie and her friend running from the wolf in the dye maker's alley, "their feet throwing up a spray of petals in their wake," or when during a snow storm, red-cloaked Valerie and her would-be lover Peter "gave in to each other, finally... Enveloped in a shelter of white, standing out in black and red, were just the two of them."
While the book relies on some stock characters -- including saintly Henry, who loves Valerie, and Peter, her dark soul-mate -- it does find clever ways to stay true to the original fairy tale (When Valerie comes face to face with the wolf, she is entranced: "'What...big...eyes...you...have...' she said faintly"). Some readers may find the open ending frustrating, but those who want a more certain conclusion can read a more conclusive final chapter online.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about fairy tales. Stories like "Little Red Riding Hood" have been around for hundreds of years and been through many different versions. Why do you think they hold so much power?
How do the more modern retellings, like this book or Beastly, differ from previous iterations you've heard?
The book's website includes a "bonus chapter," which concludes the story in a much more definite way. Why do you think the publisher decided not to print this chapter with the book, but to allow readers to download it online instead? Why could readers only access this chapter after the movie's release?
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