Tonight I want to feature a creepy little book that's been one of our favorites for a ling time now. I found an extra copy of it at Goodwill the other day, for .99 cents and am still trying to decide what to do with it. The book is Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China.
This book is phenomenal. It has it all. It has creepy visuals, it has earnest heroes, and it has some great twists that get my kids cheering when we read it. The wolf in the tale is dark and beautiful and dangerous, and even though this is not officially a Halloween story by an means... it fits the bill for a dark October night nicely.
The cover of the book posits that this is a Red Riding Hood story, but it equally resembles the Three Little Pigs as well. The story features three young children left at home by their mother, and the big bad wolf that comes to menace them. "Lon" in Chinese means wolf, and "PoPo" means granny. So you can guess what card the wolf plays to gain entry to the house (Hint: he pretends to be their granny).
The cadence of Young's text is magical and almost hypnotic as the wolf almost seems to charm his way into the children's using only his silver tongue. The tale itself is actually quite tame, but it's the illustrations where the wolf's menace and hunger shine through. The further into the story we go, the more tame and surmountable the wolf becomes (the girls trick him 3-pigs style using his own gluttony to lead him to his downfall) until the story finally ends with our kiddos being triumphant.
The shivers in the tale come from the pure greed in the wolf's eyes and his sheer size compared to the children. Young does not miss an opportunity to play up the creepy, hypnotic charm the wolf exhibits as he convinces the three children to trust him. My two boys squeal as the wolf wins the house, and then cuddle up close as he runs through the very different but all too familiar "What big eyes you have..." sequence. Then they cheer when the three children triumph over the wolf in the end.
The artwork in the book is positively haunting at times, and at other times stunningly beautiful. There is an incredible balance struck in the story that makes clear the appeal of the wolf and all the darkness it represents... and our strength to overcome that darkness if we keep a clear head and think things through.
All right, that's it for me tonight kids! I'll be back soon with more Godzilla-sized Goodwill Goodies! Until then, Happy Haunting!
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