Those of you who know me know that I love fairy tales. Something about the survival of a story through multiple generations of kids, and parents, fascinates me. When a new story appears that retells an old story with one or more fresh twists, I have to share it, as it is, in my view, a Perfect Picture Book:
Title: Little Red Cuttlefish
Written By: Henry, Josh & Harrison Herz
Illustrated By: Kate Gotfredson
Publisher/date: Pelican Publishing/September 2016
Suitable for Ages: 5-8
Themes/Topics: fractured fairy tale, cuttlefish, sea creatures
Brief Synopsis: On her way to Grandma’s house, Little Red must outwit a tiger shark or risk losing the crab cakes she’s trying to deliver – or perhaps even her life.
Links to Resources:
- Learn more about cuttlefish, tiger sharks and the original Little Red Riding Hood story in the authors’ guide;
- Visit an aquarium to view sea creatures;
- Learn to draw a cuttlefish;
- Make crab cakes.
Why I Like this Book:
Like craving comfort foods, kids crave familiar storylines, which helps explain why age-old fairy tales endure. But as evidenced by the popularity of fractured fairy tales, kids, and adult readers, also appreciate new twists to these familiar tales.
Little Red Cuttlefish combines the best of the original story with the twist of a new setting, under the sea, and a new Little Red – a cuttlefish, who uses her natural talents to evade the wolf-like shark.
If, like me, you don’t know what a cuttlefish is, no worries. There’s an afterword that identifies this curious sea creature – a boon for teachers looking to teach a science unit about squid, octopi and cuttlefish (they’re all related – who knew!). The illustrations are a wonderful introduction to the undersea world, too, making this a great picture book addition to the home or classroom with a non-fiction component, too.
A Note about Craft:
For an author wishing to add a twist to a popular fairy tale, the question arises: what to keep and what to change. Is it something as drastic as a plot change – perhaps the main conflict or outcome/resolution? Or do you change the main character or other characters – perhaps the villain? Or perhaps you tinker with the setting – time, place or both? Some of these changes may necessitate others, so a combination of changes result.
Regardless of the number and types of changes made, one thing is clear: enough of the original story must remain to keep the story familiar, and sufficiently believable changes must be made to render it fresh and appealing. I think Henry Hertz and his sons have managed this combination well, making Little Red Cuttlefish a helpful mentor text for those authors wishing to adapt, or fracture, fairy tales. For a helpful Q&A with Henry about fracturing fairy tales, including a list of other mentor texts, see a recent blog post.
As authors think, too, about marketability, the inclusion of a main character from a little-known species is a smart addition, as is the inclusion of back matter that enables the reader to dive further into the subject. See a blog post by Henry Herz that discusses the use of fiction to spur interest in a non-fiction subject.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!