Lon Po Po is (as it is subtitled) a Red-Riding Hood story from China. It tells the story of three sisters, left at home alone, when their mother goes to visit their sick grandmother. That night a wolf knocks on the door and pretends to be the grandmother. Although the younger sisters hurry to let in their beloved grandmother, the oldest sister, Shang, is suspicious and eventually figures out how to trick the wolf into leaving their house (without eating anyone).
Ed Young both wrote and illustrated Lon Po Po. Young was born in China in 1931 and came to the U.S. 20 years later to study architecture. He soon discovered his true love was art and switched his major! The first children’s book Young illustrated, The Mean Mouse and Other Mean Stories written by Janice May Udry, was published in 1962. More than 80 more followed! In addition to his win in 1990 for Lon Po Po, Young had Caldecott Honor Books in 1967 (The Emperor and the Kite) and 1992 (Seven Blind Mice).
His illustrations are based in the philosophy of Chinese painting. In Lon Po Po, Young used pastels and watercolors to create beautiful, shadowy illustrations showing how children might mistake a wolf for a grandmother. The illustrations are split into panels, with text appearing in just a small part of the page.
I love reading fairy tales from other cultures (Cinderella stories from around the world are a particular favorite, which means I’ll definitely have to check out Yeh-Shen which is a Chinese Cinderella tale that Young illustrated). The wolf is a menacing presence in this version of Red Riding Hood, but never gets to the “eat you up” point, which actually made my 4-year-old daughter confused about why then they tricked the wolf outside and killed it. May be a little more appropriate for slightly older kids.
One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is my ninth post about a Caldecott book. You can read the other Caldecott posts here.