Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Red And The City by Marie Voigt

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Review: Red And The City by Marie Voigt

Red’s Mum asks her to take a cake to Grandma in the city. She tells Red to follow the heart flowers and stay on the path. The city has many distractions – shops to browse and food to eat, adverts to read and people to talk to. Red finds herself swallowed up by the temptations of the city. 

A timely narrative about modern life and a fresh take on a traditional tale. 

I moved from London to the countryside, and find this story extremely relatable. Even on the edge of London, even with a forest practically on my doorstep, I strayed too often into the shops. Even when I had no money, even when I had better things to do. If I went looking for one thing, I popped into other places along the way. I can’t imagine living that way now. Now I walk under an open sky and use my time to get a bit more writing done. 

img_8238Does this book criticise the city? Not at all. The ending makes that very clear when Red and Gran talk about all the lovely things they might do together in the city. Cities have museums and galleries, libraries and theatres, and you know what? Even shops. If your intention is to spend half a day shopping, that’s all good. This book is about how many distractions we meet along the way. It challenges us to stick to our original intentions. 

As well as being a brilliant story about city life, it could be used as a metaphor for online behaviour. How often do we come online to look up one thing, or to do a specific job, and end up scrolling? Or flicking through our regular pages? 

The Red Riding Hood narrative is echoed in the choice of language (‘Oh city, what shiny toys you have …’) and also in the illustrations. The wolf is everywhere, hiding behind every distraction. He is disguised as an advert and a bus stop and a fast-food restaurant. 

The colour palette of greys, black and white is so dystopian and the effect is stunning. It isn’t scary, but like a fairy-tale, there is a hint of darkness at the edges. Little Red, in her bright coat, is in danger of being lost to the enormity of the city. 

A clever take on the traditional tale and a narrative which needs to be told. This will be popular in classrooms and libraries, and it would also make a wonderful bedtime story to open a discussion about the activities which are really important to us. 

 

Thanks to Oxford University Press for my gifted copy of Red And The City. Opinions my own.

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