Once Upon a Parsnip
Once Upon a Parsnip by Barbara Jean Hicks and Kevin R. Wood, with illustrations by Ben Mann, is a creative retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood tale. It's packed with illustrations and Seuss-like rhymes sure to delight listening children and the adults who read the verses aloud. Red Riding Hood (named Little Red in this version) has to go shopping for her grandmother and encounters a wolf in sales associate's clothing. One of our screeners felt that this book had the best illustrations in this year's inaugural category for children's books.
Both Jendi and I were delighted with jokes that appeal to adults as well as children, and were pleased that the writers took care to create an ending that was nonviolent for the wolf. A sample rhyming couplet:
"Now here's something crazy,
I mean this is strange!
Our pumpkins are driveable!
Poof! See the change?"
I appreciate that the language is just right for the targeted age group: a good blend of new words (e.g., driveable) and familiar ones. The book was grammatically on target with no spelling errors.
The large print is readable for both children and far-sighted grandparents, an important consideration. The recipe at the end of the book, Little Red's Apple Parsnip Soup, looks delicious, and was a delightful inclusion. Kids love to cook and the recipe is a good pedagogical tool to reinforce the story.
I have a small quibble with the word "geezer" appearing in the book. It might not be appreciated by a kindergarten teacher or librarian choosing a book to read to the class. But my main concern is that the wolf carried duct tape and rope. This truly creeped me out, as it suggests that the Wolf intended for Little Red to be tied up. Kids might not pick up on this, but parents, teachers, librarians, or book sellers might. Every time I re-read the book, the duct tape issue bothered me more and more. I can imagine my inquisitive five-year-old grandson, who quizzes me relentlessly whenever I read to him, asking me what the duct tape and rope are for. I'd be hard pressed to give him an adequate answer.
This team of writers and illustrators have the potential to create a best-selling book, and I look forward to seeing their future creations.