BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
Book Title: Red and the City (available here)
Author/Illustrator: Marie Voigt
Publication Date: February 2019
Most Suitable For: Year 1 – Year 6!
Reviewed By: Louisa Farrow (@smartfoxlouisa), Assistant Head
In this inspired adaptation of the Red Riding Hood tale, Marie Voigt has made good use of the familiar structure, but Red journeys to Grandma’s house not through the woods but through the city. This imaginative twist allows Marie Voigt to explore what are the most dangerous threats in modern society, now that wolves no longer prowl the country.
The serious theme is introduced with the lightest of touches. The wolf appears as hints in the expressive illustrations - as the shadow behind a fast food outlet or the logo on a newspaper or bank - but it’s the city which swallows Red up with its shiny toys (all the better to dazzle you with), its shocking news (all the better to worry you with) and its tempting food (all the better to sicken you with).
When Red finally makes it to the safety of Grandma’s house, Grandma confesses that she was swallowed by the city too - once. The book ends optimistically with their joint plans to do the wonderful things that are possible in cities. The constrained red and monochrome palette adds to the impact and subtlety of the illustrations and storytelling.
The KS2 children I read this with began by enthusiastically spotting the traces of wolf and making comparisons with the original. This was fun, and useful for them as storytellers. Then, as the story progressed, the discussion deepened, quite naturally, into one of those rare and precious conversations about big issues and modern day problems.
This book is not just charming and entertaining but important too. It would make the perfect introduction to the importance of healthy eating, the dangers of fake and sensationalised news or the pitfalls of a consumer society. My group had covered all three by the end of our 45 minute reading session.
This gem of a book could be used with every class in a primary school to broaden responses to traditional tales, to stimulate writing, or to open rich discussion of difficult issues. My group declared it should win a prize. I say buy it and try it!
Many thanks to the publisher for sending us a review copy of this book and to Louisa for reviewing it.