Little Red Writing

Image of Little Red Writing
Release Date: 
September 24, 2013
Chronicle Books
Reviewed by: 

“. . . a fractured fairy tale, a hero’s journey, and a clever lesson plan all rolled into one.”

Little Red Writing is a fractured fairy tale, a hero’s journey, and a clever lesson plan all rolled into one. And it’s amusing to boot.

Ms. 2 informs her class of excited young writing utensils that they will be composing stories. Seeking inspiration, Little Red, a rosy-cheeked red pencil, embarks on a journey through the school. Along the way she hopes to meet unusual characters, fight evil, and save the day.

At the outset of her adventure Little Red learns about the craft of storytelling. First, the story path: 1) Idea, characters, setting; 2) Trouble; 3) Even bigger trouble; 4) Fix the trouble. Then she picks up some writing advice including the need for active verbs, how to avoid getting bogged down in thickets of adjectives, the benefit of using adverbs, and the danger of run-on sentences.

The reader might at about this point note the irony of a storybook interrupting its own story with storytelling advice—when the only potentially worthwhile advice might be to avoid doing such a thing at all costs.

But the remarkable fact is that the veteran team of author Jane Holub and illustrator Melissa Sweet get away with it. They have managed to deftly interpose literary lessons without bringing the story to a grinding halt. The pair pull off this sleight of hand with the combined energy of Ms. Holub’s lively writing and Ms. Sweet’s colorful, action packed illustrations. The instructions are wisely and effectively delivered on the run while Little Red hurries through the school in search of her elusive story.

Even so, the book threatens to not rise above the level of Fun Teaching Tool. But just as the reader is resigned to this, the plot thickens. A mystery takes shape in the form of an intriguing but also ominous tail, in this case a long extension cord, which Little Red bravely follows until it leads her to the final showdown with the Big Bad Wolf—in this case the Wolf 3000 pencil sharpener—so she can save the proverbial grandmother, in this case Principal Granny.

Victorious, Little Red returns to class to share her success and her successfully written story with her classmates—who have their own terrific tales to tell.

In the end Little Red Writing is about what it takes to find one’s own stories: You must sally forth searching for them, pencil in hand and courage in backpack (powerful vocab in your basket is a plus as well).

But that’s only half the message here.

It’s refreshing and more than a little surprising to find a book that not only encourages kids to seize and save their days, but that also actually instructs them in an entertaining way how to properly get the dramatic details down on paper after they do so.

All the better to share them with the world, my dear.