Children’s Book of the Week: The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza)
The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza) by Philemon Sturges, illustrated by Amy Walrod
I’ve never been a fan of the Little Red Hen story. You know, the one where she works insanely hard to make a loaf of bread (growing the wheat herself and everything; the Little Red Hen is a real back-to-the-land type), and none of her friends help, but then when they smell the bread suddenly they’re her best friend again and are looking for some hot bread? It always really bugged me that Little Red Hen worked so hard and her only friends were so ungrateful and unhelpful (read into this as much as you like as far as parallels between that and life as a parent).
But leave it to Philemon Sturges (of our beloved I Love Trucks) to retell the story the way it should have been from the beginning. Here, Little Red Hen makes a pizza instead of a loaf of bread (this story apparently takes place an hour after the classic one, since the first sentence tells us that she just finished her last slice of the tasty bread she made). Her friends are again no help. Here are the three reasons this book rocks:
- Every time Little Red Hen goes to the store to get what she needs, she buys some funny extra things, and Amy Walrod’s colorful collage illustrations are wonderful, and it’s fun to be all parenty and say, “What extra things did she buy?” She buys a kitchen sink at the hardware store, as well as a book called “The Do It Yourself Guide to Sink Installation (and Other Things).”
- Little Red Hen repeatedly says “Cluck” in such a way that it could be taken, by the adult reader with a sense of humor, as the hen version of a curse. Which, since it rhymes with another popular curse, is very, very funny when you’re reading it, but your kids will of course completely miss this one, so it is a little private joke between you and Philemon Sturges. Here’s an example: Hen looks for a pizza pan, but can’t find one. “‘Cluck,’ she said. ‘I need a pizza pan.'” So it might be pretty subtle, but it had me smiling to myself the whole time.
- The conclusion to this story is much better than the old one. Her friends do come in for pizza, but then they all do the dishes while Hen kicks back with a book. Eli even said, “That was nice that they all helped clean up in the end. I’m glad they finally helped her.” And that was with no prompting from me, even.
So, high marks all around: fun illustrations, little jokey things inserted throughout (I like that she has all kinds of normal cans of food in her pantry, as well as a random can of worms), and an actual message that is immediately apparent to kids (or, at least it was to my usually-very-helpful 3-year-old).