Book Reviews: “Little Red,” “Lord of the Sky” and “The Storyteller”

As a lot of you might know, I tend to read a lot of YA/fantasy/sci-fi/romance books like “The Rose Society,” “Ink and Bone,” and “Stars of Fortune,” and then review them on this blog. However, I do like taking a look at what books there are that focus on younger age demographics every once in a while, like “Frazzled!” I happened to come across three children’s picture books that were quite enjoyable to read, and so I will discuss them each in this post.

Because these books are in an age demographic that I don’t often review, I will not be giving them a numerical rating like I usually do with most books I review.  Instead, I will give an overall summary of what I think of each of these books.

Cover of "Little Red" by Bethan Woolvin.
Cover of “Little Red” by Bethan Woolvin.

“Little Red” by Bethan Woollvin

“On her way to Grandmas house, Little Red Riding Hood meets a wolf. Now, that might scare some little girlsbut not this little girl! She knows just what the wolf is up to, and shes not going to let him get away with it. In this updated fairy tale with a mischievous twist, talented newcomer Bethan Woollvin uses sly humor, striking visuals, and a dark irreverence to turn a familiar tale on its head.”

This was an interesting retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. Instead of getting eaten by the wolf and being fooled by its disguise, she outsmarts the wolf by grabbing an axe beforehand, pretending to play along until the last second, and then kills it. This gives Red Riding Hood the role of a much more active female protagonist than in the original version.

I’m a little concerned about the fact that Grandma is completely dead. There’s no scene where she turns out okay, and this makes it a bit of a violent retelling for a children’s picture book. It doesn’t help that Red literally wears the wolf’s fur right after killing it, either. However, I do think it’s a different way of tackling retelling this tale, and I have to give kudos for that.

Cover of "Lord Of the Sky," written by Linda Zeman-Spaleny and illustrated by Ludmila Zeman.
Cover of “Lord Of the Sky,” written by Linda Zeman-Spaleny and illustrated by Ludmila Zeman.

“Lord of the Sky” written by Linda Zeman-Spaleny and illustrated by Ludmila Zeman

“A breathtakingly illustrated tribute to the art and mythology of West Coast native culture.

In this exquisitely illustrated picture book, based on the animated short film of the same name, Linda Zeman-Spaleny transports young readers to a bygone time when nothing lived in the universe, when “out of the darkness came the Great Raven, who brought the Sun to the children of the North Pacific Coast.”

Legend tells of a boy, living by the sea, who befriends the ravens, sharing his food with them. But some of the ravens are greedy, and the village boys decide to teach them a lesson by sending a swift and fatal arrow. When darkness descends upon the land, the wise elder tells the villagers that only the Lord of the Sky can restore the Sun, so the boy begins an arduous journey in search of him. . . .

In this riveting folktale, Linda Zeman-Spaleny pays tribute to her emigration from Eastern Europe and her arrival in British Columbia, where she saw beautiful totem poles for the first time. Award-winning artist Ludmila Zeman’s lush, vibrant artwork complements this timeless tale with modern themes and the message that we need to care for our world in order to preserve it.”

I found this particular picture book illustrates the fact that there are consequences for any decision, whether it’s good or bad. For instance, despite being friends with the ravens, some of them take the gift of shared food for granted, taking more than they need. Another instance of consequences in decisions is when the village boys end up killing one of the ravens, which results in the ravens being enraged and causing darkness on the land. Even the boy who searches for the Lord of the Sky has the consequence of nearly dying in the process, due to how dangerous the journey is to find him. I found that the artwork definitely complimented the nature of consequences, due to its darker tones (especially when detailing the ravens and how the sky darkened when they got enraged).

Cover of "The Storyteller" by Evan Turk.
Cover of “The Storyteller” by Evan Turk.

“The Storyteller” by Evan Turk

“From Ezra Jack Keats 2015 New Illustrator Honor recipient Evan Turk comes his debut work as author-illustrator: an original folktale that celebrates the power of stories and storytelling.

Long, long ago, like a pearl around a grain of sand, the Kingdom of Morocco formed at the edge of the great, dry Sahara. It had fountains of cool, refreshing water to quench the thirst of the desert, and storytellers to bring the people together.

But as the kingdom grew, the people forgot the dangers of the desert, and they forgot about the storytellers, too. All but one young boy, who came to the Great Square for a drink and found something that quenched his thirst even better: wonderful stories. As he listened to the last storyteller recount the Endless Drought, and the Glorious Blue Water Bird, he discovered the power of a tale well told.

Acclaimed illustrator Evan Turk has created a stunning multidimensional story within a story that will captivate the imagination and inspire a new generation of young storytellers.”

I liked the story itself. It reminded me a little bit of the fairytale “Scheherezade” close to the end, when the boy would tell the story, stop about halfway through, and told the djinn to hold off destroying the city until the next night so he could finish it.

Some of the pictures in the picture book felt busy due to the large amount of detail put into illustrations. The illustrations are certainly ornate, but the ornateness made it hard to read the actual story. However, I do think it fit the sense of storytelling and what wild things can come out of one’s stories as well.


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