Vivian Vande Velde is one of the most underrated storytellers out there. I adore her books! While her novels are my favorites, she is also a master at crafting a good short story (a rare skill, I find). Cloaked in Red is no exception. With her signature dry wit, VVV has managed to create eight distinct and highly original versions of the, admittedly, rather strange original tale.
Before she beings, VVV treats the reader to a hilarious and sarcastic summary and deconstruction of the original story, complete with explanations on a number of different versions. She points out the absurdities of the original (naming a kid after an article of clothing? Kid can't tell the difference between her own grandmother and an animal?), leaving me rolling with laughter. Usually I skip author's notes, but for some reason I decided to read this one. Piece of advice? Read it! If you're at all unfamiliar with the story, or just need a refresher on the details, she does an excellent job summarizing it. More importantly, the author's note is laugh out loud funny!
Each story follows a different character in the original story: the grandmother, Little Red, the woodcutter, Little Red's mother, the wolf, and even the Red Riding Hood. Sometimes Little Red is bratty, sometimes she's nice, sometimes granny is a victim, and sometimes she is something quite different. Some of the stories are sweet, some are horrifying, but all showcase VVV's wry humor. The real triumph of these stories is that each is unique and I never felt like I was reading the same story over and over again.
While all these stories share a common theme, they are each separate and self-contained so you can easily pick the book up, read a story, and then read something else in between. The whole book is pretty short and can be read in about an hour or two. I do recommend this book to fans of fractured fairy tales or someone looking for a laugh.