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Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China Paperback – April 16, 1996

4.4 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Three little girls spare no mercy to Lon Po Po, the granny wolf, in this version of Little Red Riding Hood where they tempt her up a tree and over a limb, to her death. The girls' frightened eyes are juxtaposed against Lon Po Po's menacing squint and whirling blue costume in one of the books numerous three-picture sequences, which resemble the decorative panels of Chinese tradition. Through mixing abstract and realistic images with complex use of color and shadow, artist and translator Young has transformed a simple fairy tail into a remarkable work of art and earned the 1990 Caldecott Medal in doing so. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

This version of the Red Riding Hood story from Young ( The Emperor and the Kite ; Cats Are Cats ; Yeh-Shen ) features three daughters left at home when their mother goes to visit their grandmother. Lon Po Po, the Granny Wolf, pretends to be the girls' grandmother, until clever Shang, the eldest daughter, suspects the greedy wolf's real identity. Tempting him with ginkgo nuts, the girls pull him in a basket to the top of the tree in which they are hiding, then let go of the rope--killing him. One of Young's most arresting illustrations accompanies his dedication: "To all the wolves of the world for lending their good name as a tangible symbol for our darkness." Like ancient Oriental paintings, the illustrations are frequently grouped in panels. When the girls meet the wolf, e.g., the left panel focuses on their wary faces peering out from the darkness, the middle enlarges the evil wolf's eye and teeth, and the third is a vivid swirl of the blue clothes in which the wolf is disguised. The juxtaposition of abstract and realistic representations, the complicated play of color and shadow, and the depth of the artist's vision all help transform this simple fairy tale into an extraordinary and powerful book. Ages 4-8.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 670L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin Books; Reprint edition (April 16, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0698113829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0698113824
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.2 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,024 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Caldecott Medalist Ed Young is the illustrator of over eighty books for children, seventeen of which he has also written.
He finds inspiration for his work in the philosophy of Chinese painting. 'A Chinese painting is often accompanied by words,' explains Young. 'They are complementary. There are things that words do that pictures never can, and likewise, there are images that words can never describe.'
Born in Tientsin, China, Ed Young grew up in Shanghai and later moved to Hong Kong. As a young man, he came to the United States on a student visa to study architecture but turned instead to his love of art.
Young began his career as a commercial artist in advertising and found himself looking for something more expansive, expressive, and timeless. He discovered all this, and more, in children's books. The subject and style of each story provide Young with the initial inspiration for his art and with the motivation for design, sequence, and pace. Accuracy in research is essential to his work, too--whether he is illustrating fantasy, folk tale, or fact.
According to Young, a strong foundation of credibility must be established in order to create new and exciting images. Through such images, he hopes to capture his readers and ultimately expand their awareness. Young's quest for challenge and growth are central in his role as illustrator.
'Before I am involved with a project I must be moved, and as I try something exciting, I grow. It is my purpose to stimulate growth in the reader as an active participant as well,' Young explains. 'I feel the story has to be exciting, and a moving experience for a child.'
A graduate of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Young has since taught at the Pratt Institute, Yale University, Naropa Institute, and the University of California at Santa Cruz. In 1990, his book Lon Po Po was awarded the Caldecott Medal. He has also received two Caldecott Honors--for The Emperor and the Kite and Seven Blind Mice--and was twice nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the highest international recognition given to children's book authors and illustrators who have made a lasting contribution to children's literature.
Young lives in Westchester County, New York, with his two daughters.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Like film awards, book awards rarely go to an artist's best work. Usually if a picture book has won a Caldecott medal you can sift through the author and illustrator's other books and inevitably find something far more deserving. This is true of almost every author/illustrator, save one. Ed Young has had a varied and fabulous career. From his spectacular "Seven Blind Mice" to his insipid and poorly drawn "Turkey Girl" he's run the gamut from "Yippee!" to "Bleach!". But his Caldecott winning "Lon Po Po" falls squarely into the "Yippee!" category. To my mind, it is his best work. A stunning edition of the Chinese tale of Lon Po Po, this story weaves elements of Grimm Fairy Tales with "Little Red Riding Hood" and comes out swinging.

One day a mother leaves her three daughters to visit their grandmother on her birthday. Before she leaves she instructs the girls to lock the doors soundly after she is gone. The girls do so but a wily wolf has overheard that the mother will be leaving. The wolf disguises himself as an old woman and knocks on the door. When asked who he is, he responds that he is their grandmother (or "Po Po") come to stay with them. The children foolishly let the animal in and he quickly douses the lights. After many questions about the supposed grandmother's bushy tail and sharp claws the eldest and cleverest daughter catches sight of the wolf's snout and must find a way to save her sisters. Not only does she succeed, but she also finds a way to get rid of the wolf forever.

In the dedication of this book, Ed Young writes, "To all the wolves of the world for lending their good name as a tangible symbol for our darkness". This was written in part, I suspect, to appease the wolf lovers of the world.
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Format: Paperback
Dedicated to all the wolves of the world for lending their good name as a tangible symbol for our darkness (Ed Young's own dedication)

Cultural anthropologists tell us there are similar fairy tales all over the world. This retelling of the Chinese version of the Big Bad Wolf certainly is cause for the awarding of the Caldecott Medal for Best Children's Literature in 1990. In addition to his story, Ed Young's shape-shifting art merges tale with sight for a free-flowing, fluid interpretation of the wolf.

The Chinese tale is different. Three little girls are left home while their mother goes to see the sick grandmother. At dark the wolf makes his appearance, blowing out the inside light as soon as possible. The illustrations are murky, like the light in the room, and only glints of teeth and whites of eyes can be discerned. But the oldest girl knows what's up and tricks the wolf into wanting gingko nuts high in the tree outside their house.

No woodchoppers in the Chinese version--only one smart oldest daughter and two thoughtful, obedient younger daughters. How they defeat the wolf is sheer brilliance.

Ed Young's illustrations deserve separate praise. Since most of the story takes place during the cover of night, he must show his scenes in darkness. However, he adds touches and big swaths of reds, purples, greens, blues, salmons, golds, to present the story. Beautiful, eye-popping, and very effective!
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Format: Hardcover
Many people never have the opportunity to compare literatures from different cultures. Lon Po Po offers a rare chance for a 4-8 year old to have that experience. The book is gorgeously illustrated in panels of stunning shades of shifting color, providing the feeling of an oriental screen. The images themselves seem to be rendered in pastels and grease sticks. It was no surprise to me that this book won the Caldecott Medal in 1990 for the best illustrated children's book. It is one of the very best of such medalists that I have seen.
In the book, mother leaves to visit grandmother for her birthday leaving her three daughters, Shang, Tao, and Paotze home alone. "Remember to close the door tight at sunset and latch it well."
An old wolf sees the mother leave. He dresses up like an old woman and after dark knocks on the door. "Bang, bang." He says, "This is your grandmother, your Po Po." Shang challenges him, and the wolf lies. Tao and Paotze let him in, and the wolf blows out the candle so he could not be seen. He gives the two girls who let him in a hug, and they all go to bed together.
Shang notices that "your foot has a brush on it" referring to his tail. He replies that they are "hemp strings to weave you a basket." She then mentions that "your hand has thorns on it" referring to his claws. He responds that it is an "awl to make shoes for you."
Shang figures something is wrong. She asks the wolf if he has ever eaten gingko nuts. He says not. The children offer to get him some. Once in the tree, Shang tells her sisters they have a wolf.
They lure the wolf into a basket held by a rope and pull him up into the tree. Then they drop him repeatedly until he dies from the fall.
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Format: Hardcover
Lon Po Po is an adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood from China. In Young's version the mother leaves her three children for the day, Shang, Tao, and Paotze, to visit their grandmother on her birthday. While the mother is gone a wolf, dressed as their grandmother, Po Po, comes to try to eat them. The oldest daughter Shang is clever and outsmarts the wolf. The relevance of this folk tale to the article Strong Women in Appalachian Folktales is the importance of the female protagonist.
A female protagonist in a folktale is a rarity. Male protagonists over shadow females in twentieth century tales. Shang is the female protagonist in Lon Po Po. Not only does she defeat the wolf but she outsmarts him as well. It is important that she is portrayed as the clever heroin so that contemporary children have more positive role models than the heroines in the best-known traditional fairytales (225). In Lon Po Po, the wolf does not fool Shang as little red riding hood was in the European tale. Shang realizes from the start that the wolf is trying to trick her. When she asks the wolf about his fur and his claws she is simultaneously planning a way to get rid of him. Appalachian folktales are tales that were adapted in America. Many made the female protagonist stronger than the previous European version. Ed Young readapted the tale of little red riding hood in the same way. In the original European version the wolf eats the grandmother. There are no women in this Chinese rendition that fall victim to the wolf.
Folktales inevitably change when retold by another culture. However, there are some similarities in the way that Appalachian folktales and Chinese folktales changed. They both highlight the strengths of female characters and give them an even bigger role than their original one (225).
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