Some villains simply can't take a hint. Faced with defeat they retreat only to come back for more. They cave to their cravings; especially if it involves meat. One could say they never really learn; or do they?
Such is the case with the wily wolf that faced the proficient porkers in The Three Ninja Pigs (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., September 27, 2012). Giving credit where credit is due, he is crafty enough to realize he needs to sharpen his combative skills along with his teeth. Author Corey Rosen Schwartz and illustrator Dan Santat have returned in a collaboration of fractured fairy tale frenzy titled Ninja Red Riding Hood (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), July 10, 2014). Hold on to your gi. This Red of the Riding Hood will have you shouting whoopee!
Once upon a Ninja-filled time,
a wolf couldn't catch any prey.
He kept getting licked
by the dinner he picked
and was growing more ticked by the day.
What's a hungry carnivore to do? Disguise himself and enroll in a martial arts school. Practicing to perfection, his plan is complete. Into the darkened woods he goes, hoping for something good to eat.
Along comes Little Red on her way to Grandmother's house. He leads her astray with a promise...the louse. Sneaking to Gran's he's surprised to discover the old lady is gone; he quickly goes undercover. Suspicious at seeing her dear relative looking odd, Hood asks familiar questions giving the original tale a nod.
Just as the beast is springing for his first bite, Red Riding takes a stance ready to fight. It seems the brute has been a fool; of course she went to Ninja school too! When it looks as if the conflict will never conclude, in walks Grandmother in a bit of a mood. Who wins on this day? I'll never say but out of this duel comes a new rule. It's vegetables all the way.
How can you not begin the think in rhyme when reading the rhythmic words of Corey Rosen Schwartz? This writer scores a splendid symmetry between her use of language and weaving a narrative stuffed with suspense and surprise. The verbal exchanges between Red Riding Hood, the wolf and Grandmother are feisty, fresh and just plain fun. Here is a sample passage.
"And those biceps! My gosh, they look massive.
And your triceps and delts are immense."
"The better for hugging,"
her grandma said, shrugging.
"Dear Red, that's just plain common sense."
One look at the colorful dust jacket and book case, a determined Red Riding Hood ready to execute her ninja moves with the conniving creature lurking behind a fan, is a clear call to readers looking for action. Using Sumi brush work on rice paper, completed in Adobe Photoshop, illustrator Dan Santat continues his skillful cleverness on the opening and closing endpapers. On the first Red Riding Hood is crossing a bridge going right into the forest, golden glows of early morning in the background. Hues of blue highlight the wolf crossing the same bridge going in the other direction to the left on the final set.
On the verso and title page Red Riding Hood enters the forest, a poster picturing the wolf hanging on a bamboo tree. Each of the illustrations, whether a full two pages, a single page or pages divided into panels, are bold and lively. Santat literally brings readers into the action with an enhanced perspective. It's like a force field surrounding you as you read. Facial expressions on the wolf, Little Red and Gran tell their own tale accentuating personalities; bringing in the special Santat humor.
Of many favorite illustrations the ones which stand out for me are those depicting the conversation between the wolf and Ninja Red Riding Hood when she questions "grandmother". He looks so innocent and beguiling in a distinctively wolfish way as her wariness grows. You can feel the tension growing.
Come one, come all. Gather near to hear the tale of Ninja Red Riding Hood written by Corey Rosen Schwartz with illustrations by Dan Santat. It's the best kind of once upon a Ninja-filled time you've read since The Three Ninja Pigs. Red Riding Hood and company never looked so good.
Please follow the links embedded in the author's and illustrator's names to get to their official websites. Enjoy the book trailer below.