Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story From China

Author/Illustrator: Young, Ed
Publisher and Date: Philomel Books, 1989
Genre: Traditional Literature, Picture Book
Age Range: 2nd - 5th grades
Awards: Caldecott Award Winner 1990

Summary: In this version of Red-Riding Hood, three sisters are left at home alone one night while their mother left to go see their grandmother, Po Po, on her birthday. An old wolf disguises himself as Po Po after the mother leaves and is let into the house by the two younger sisters. The oldest sees the wolf's face and comes up with a plan involving the ginkgo tree to kill the wolf so they will be safe again.

Response: I really enjoyed this version of Red-Riding Hood. It is so different but still shares some similarities with the one I heard when I was growing up. In this one the "grandmother" comes to the house instead of being sick in bed and it has three little girls instead of one in a red cape. I liked how the three girls outsmarted the wolf on their own by dropping him in the basket from the tree. It was a clever plan that did not need the assistance of a woodsman passing by!
The girls tell the wolf that if he eats one gingko nut, that he will live forever. I wasn't sure what that was so I looked it up and it is linked above. According to Wikipedia it is misspelled, but I doubt it makes too much of a difference. On that linked site it shows pictures of the ginkgo trees which usually range from 66-115 feet. That wolf had three pretty hard falls from a tree that tall! There is some truth to living forever though, as the nuts are believed to have health benefits in the Chinese culture.

Teaching Ideas: This is a great book to compare cultures with. Elements such as the ginkgo nuts and 'Po Po' could be discussed and students could relate them to a similar item in their culture. A Venn-Diagram could also be created comparing this version with the traditional story of Red-Riding Hood. As a language arts lesson, students could get into small groups to create their own version of Red-Riding Hood and share it with the class.

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