Today’s book review is for Cassie and the Woolf, written by Olivia Snowe, illustrated by Michelle Lamoreaux, published by Stone Arch Books (an imprint of Capstone Young Readers). I received an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Cassie and the Woolf is a part of the Twice Told Tales series, where classic folk and fairy tales are re-imagined for modern audiences. This book is a re-telling of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Since the audience is already familiar with the basic plot of the classic tale, the pleasure in reading this version is seeing how it can be changed to reflect present day situations.
I think Snowe’s greatest accomplishment in re-writing the Red Riding Hood story is in figuring out how to incorporate the Wolf character without writing in the fantasy genre. In the character of Caleb Woolf, she reminds us that though most of us no longer have to fear monsters and wild animals in the woods, there are still predatory people in our midst–looking to exploit and harm the unsuspecting. At the same, time, though, through her use of alternating perspectives in her narration, the audience is able to see that Caleb isn’t a monster, just a troubled kid who makes poor choices. And so, rather than dehumanizing her villain by comparing him to an animal, she helps us to understand his motivations. My favorite part of Snowe’s story is that Grandma and Cassie have far more agency than the women of the original. Rather than requiring a man to come and rescue them, they are able to formulate a solution on their own.
Lamoreaux’s comic book style illustrations appear several times throughout the story, just enough to guide the imagination without fully directing it. Her style seems to have been influenced by the manga illustrators of Japan, particularly the exceptionally large eyes of Cassie. It’s a good choice for the middle grades audience, because it’s likely to be familiar and popular.
The book has a great design. I loved that all elements of the book–typeface, illustrations, title pages, etc are printed in black and white, with red accents. Those small pops of red throughout are wonderful. They help to unify the work as a whole and offer a continual subtle reminder of the Red Riding Hood origin story.
This is a fun book for middle grade readers. Sophisticated kids will enjoy the way that this Twice Told Tale plays with the original story and creates something new, with a modern moral. Those who are less savvy will still likely enjoy the “catch the bad guy” element of the story. Although I will add the caveat that some might find the vigilante justice solution a bit troubling.
When I first started reading, I was leaning toward a 3 star review. I liked the story, but wasn’t especially enthused. But once I started to probe the themes of the book, I realized that it’s exploring some pretty cool ideas–and was tempted to go higher. Then I realized that I did find the vigilante justice at the end of the book a little extreme (not the idea itself, but the specifics of what Grandma and Cassie did), so, 3 out of 5 stars it is.
You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.