Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Red:  The True Story of Red Riding Hood Book Poster Image
Strong heroine leads the adventure in fairy tale revamp.

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age 10+
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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Fantasy meant to entertain, but kids can be encouraged to compare this version of the story with others.

Positive Messages

You'll make many mistakes before you find your own true magic, but you'll never find it at all if you're not willing to keep trying when you fail. Fear can twist good things into bad things, so don't be afraid. If you're afraid of someone, it makes them afraid of you, and that makes each of you dangerous to the other. Everyone dies eventually, but we all live on in each other because we're all a part of each other. Wisdom is knowing when to fix things and when to let them go.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Red is smart, clever, and willing to face great danger to save her grandmother. She's sworn off using her magic because she's afraid of the harm it can do, but as she learns to trust herself she also learns to use her magic for good. She learns that there are two sides to every story and that it feels good to be needed. Red's parents are loving but absent; she's especially close to her grandmother, who's a great mentor. Best friend Goldie is supportive and determined to help.


Fights and scuffles with fantasy creatures such as gnomes and gargoyles. Blood is mentioned a few times but not described. A mother bear attacks when her cub is in danger and draws blood with a swat of her claw. Dying -- and being afraid that a loved one will die -- is a frequent topic that's safely resolved.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Red is the third in a series of fractured fairy tales by Liesl Shurtliff, following Rump and Jack. Red, of the famous riding hood, is a smart, strong heroine who learns how to trust her own abilities and not to be afraid of change. There are some scary beasts out in the Woods, and encounters with fantasy creatures sometimes involve fights that draw blood, although there's no gore or detailed descriptions. Death as an eventuality is mentioned several times. Red's quest is to save her grandmother from illness, and her journey takes her from a willingness to do anything to prevent death to an understanding that it's part of life and that if you learn everything you can from your loved ones, they'll always be a part of you. In the author's note Shurtliff talks about her own experience with her grandmother's death, and how it affected this story. It'll also get kids thinking about how there are two sides to every story and how knowing the other side helps foster understanding and prevents decisions based on fear.

User Reviews

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Teen, 17 years old Written bymjett5577 June 24, 2016

Great middle grade retelling

Red's life is full of magic. Her Granny is especially magical. After a near fatal accident, Red is not comfortable using magic herself anymore. He... Continue reading

What's the story?

When RED's grandmother becomes ill, Red decides to go out into the Woods on her own to find the ingredients needed for a healing potion. Along the way, she learns of three different kinds of magic that could possibly save Granny's life, but to find them she'll have to survive the gnome caves, getting locked in an enchanted castle, and a golden-curled friend who will not stop talking -- not to mention the wolf, who always seems to be lurking nearby. But even if she can find the magical cures, are they really the best thing for Granny, and are Granny and Red willing to pay the price for using them?

Is it any good?

Liesl Shurtliff’s third fractured fairy tale keeps up the humor and charm while taking a more mysterious, slightly darker turn from the silliness of Rump or the action of Jack. Red’s journey involves coming to terms with the idea that everyone dies eventually, so be prepared to talk, especially with little kids, about your own family’s experiences, how to make the most of the time we have with our loved ones, and how those we’ve lost stay with us.

Kids will find a lot to admire and relate to in Red, a smart, strong girl who learns not to let fear get in her way. Despite the darker themes, there are still plenty of laughs, excitement, and adventure to be had. It'll encourage kids to think about how fear gets in the way and what we can learn when we hear the other side of the story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about a loved one dying. Many people are afraid of death, and everyone feels sad when they lose someone they love. How have you or your loved ones coped with loss?

  • Do you wish you could be more like Red? What do you like about her? If you were writing her story, would you make her different? How?

  • Have you read the author's other books about Rumpelstiltskin and Jack and the beanstalk? Which did you like best? Why?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fairy tales

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