POC Reading Challenge Update: 4 of 9
Picture Book Reading Challenge Update: 9 of 72
To all the wolves of the world
for lending their good name
as a tangible symbol of our darkness.
– Ed Young
Prior to the launch of our Message in a Bottle theme and our Chinese New Year special, I had already bought this book at the $1 Bookstore at the Chula Vista Mall. Because we here at GatheringBooks love fractured tales and revel at books worthy of awards—this one being a recipient of the Caldecott Medal—Ed Young’s wonderfully illustrated Chinese version of the Brothers Grimm’s Little Red Riding Hood is perfect for my comeback after being sick for about one week. (Still coughing my lungs out but this is all for the glory of book-blogging. Huzzah!)
Once, long ago, there was a woman who lived alone in the country with her three children, Shang, Tao, and Paotze. On the day of their grandmother’s birthday, the good mother set off to see her, leaving the three children at home.
And so the mother leaves the children by themselves, tells them that she will not return that night and reminds them to close the door and latch it well. Litte do they know, a wolf who lives nearby sees the mother leave. He then disguises himself as the children’s grandmother—their Po Po—and knocks on the door. The children tell the wolf that their mother left to visit her. Undeterred, the wolf replies,
“To visit me? I have not met her along the way. She must have taken a different route.”
“Po Po!” Shang said. “How is it that you come so late?”
The wolf answered, “The journey is long, my children, and the day is short.”
The wolf tells the children that he has a cold and they must let him in. While Shang, the eldest daughter, is unconvinced, the other two cannot wait. One unlocks the door and the other opens it. As soon as he enters the door, the wolf blows out the candle that Shang is holding.
As Tao and Paotze, the little ones who let the wolf in, hug their Po Po (who is actually a Lon Po Po, which is Chinese for ‘granny wolf’), the wolf realizes how plump they are. So the wolf pretends to be sleepy and invites the three children to climb into the bed with him.
But when Shang stretched, she touched the wolf’s tail. “Po Po, Po Po, your foot has a bush on it.”
“Po Po has brought hemp strings to weave you a basket,” the wolf said.
Shang touched grandmother’s sharp claws. “Po Po, Po Po, your hand has thorns on it.”
“Po Po has brought an awl to make shoes for you,” the wolf said.
At once, Shang lit the light and the wolf blew it out again, but Shang had seen the wolf’s hairy face.
Shang, being the eldest and most clever, devises a plan to trick the wolf. She tells the wolf that gingko nuts have the power to make one immortal and that she and her sisters are willing to climb the tree for him. Delighted, the wolf lets the children out and Shang tells her sisters about the wolf as soon as they are up the tree. Did they succeed? I guess the picture on the left holds the answer to this question. The children climb down, go back to the house, and fall asleep peacefully.
Ed Young and the Brothers Grimm: A Comparison
As I was searching for resources for this review, I came upon this nice comparison table made by Scholastic for teachers. Needless to say, Lon Po Po is a good teaching material and this resource guide is one way of helping children understand the story from a different perspective.
How well do you know the Brothers Grimm story? If your memory is not as good as mine, then maybe this stop-motion animation created by Oxbridge Baby will help you remember.
In the classic tale, the only characters were Red, the wolf, mother, grandmother, and the woodcutter. There was no woodcutter in Ed Young’s version and the three sisters replaced the character of Red. Ed Young reversed the original tale by making the mother leave and the three children stay. Also, in the Brothers Grimm version, granny was sick. But Ed Young decided that it would be granny’s birthday.
Of course there was the wolf, the fairy tale villain whose menacing features were brilliantly highlighted by Ed Young’s art. While the classic wolf stopped Red in the forest and tricked her into taking the long path, Ed Young’s wolf knocked on the door (similar to what the Big Bad Wolf from The Three Little Pigs did) and presented himself as the children’s grandmother. Even the unveiling of the wolf’s true nature was different for both European and Asian versions.
Moreover, while the woodcutter saved Red in the classic version, Ed Young gave his characters more freedom and assigning them a more ‘powerful’ role by allowing them to rescue themselves—yay, girl power! *wink*
Lon Po Po is More than Your Average Fairy Tale
Ed Young redefines a fairy tale with his artistic rendition of Little Red Riding Hood. Some readers may find his version a haunting retelling of the original (as seen through his dark, murky artwork), but it also challenges the way readers think.
Traditional Chinese clothing replaced the red hood. Also, no longer do we read about the wolf’s big ears, eyes, and teeth. We are introduced to activities of daily living that may be part of Chinese culture. The gingko tree, of course, did not escape me. The gingko is known to have various uses as food and traditional medicine, with its species restricted to a small area in Eastern China.
Ed Young’s dedication quoted above is a reflection of the famous idiom, wolf in a sheep’s clothing. In this red-riding hood story from China, we see a reversal of roles between the cunning Lon Po Po and the more astute Shang. Both were tricksters but Shang’s goodness prevailed. This, I think, is the one thing that both versions agree upon: the big bad wolf gets defeated in the end.
As a treat for wonderful readers such as yourselves, here are two videos related to Little Red Riding Hood. The first one is what is called an infographic animation that offers facts while telling the story of Red. The second is a cover done by Brooke on a song called Little Red Riding Hood by Sam and the Shams and the Pharoahs. Have fun watching!
Ed Young, winner of the 1990 Caldecott Medal, has illustrated over 40 books for children, four of which he has also written. He cites the philosophy of Chinese painting as his inspiration. For more information about his life as an artist and children’s book illustrator, visit his bio here as presented by Scholastic.