________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 39. . . .June 10, 2016


Little Red Hen’s Great Escape. (Tadpoles: Fairytale Twists).

Elizabeth Dale. Illustrated by Andrew Painter.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2016.
32 pp., pbk., hc., & html, $8.95 (pbk.), $25.95 (List RLB), $20.76 (School RLB).
ISBN 978-0-7787-2512-1 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-2461-2 (RLB), ISBN 978-1-4271-7721-6 (html).

Kindergarten-grade 2 / Ages 5-7.

Review by Ellen Wu.

*** /4


The Little Red Hen was worried. Bulldozers had arrived in the farmyard. Holes were being dug. Something bad was going on.

She went to see Farmer Green. She knew he wouldn't tell her what was happening, so she had to be clever.

"The builders are so busy," she clucked. "Can I help?"

"You!" laughed the farmer. "How can you help?" "I can pick up sand and straw to keep it tidy everywhere," the Little Red Hen said.

"OK," said the farmer. "Be helpful while you can."

The Little Red Hen trembled with fear. What did he mean?


This serviceable reader is from Crabtree’s “Tadpoles: Fairytale Twists” series in which a fairy tale, fable, or folk tale is re-imagined and presented in a sturdy, hard covered reader just the right size for small hands. The series is aimed at early fluent readers, though the books are also easily shared with children as a read aloud. There are "Notes for Adults" at the back of the book which, recommend discussion points before, during, and after reading to support literacy skills development with the aim of enriching the reading experience of the child reader.

     The Little Red Hen is a folktale that emphasizes industriousness and diligence. The original tale has the Little Red Hen asking for assistance from animals to help her plant and harvest grain, but the animals are too lazy to help her. They are only interested when she has bread to share, but she refuses to share them with her lazy peers, instead sharing the bounty with her chicks instead.

     In this faiytale twist, the Little Red Hen lives on Farmer Green's farm, and the telling illustrations leave little to the imagination regarding the nefariousness of Farmer Green. Little Red Hen worries from the first page onwards as she senses a buzz of activity on the farm for which she cannot account, as the excerpt above shows. She tries to ferret the truth out of Farmer Green, and, in order to do some reconnaissance, she gets his consent to clean the barnyard. Little Red Hen decides to enlist the help of her fellow barnyard occupants to get some back up.

     Puns abound in the responses of the little red hen's farm friends who all ridicule her for her over cautiousness when she warns them of impending danger. "'Not until eleven o'cluck!' snorted the pig. 'No, thank ewe,' laughed the Lamb. 'You're just chicken!' quacked the duck. 'Lazy animals!' thought the Little Red Hen."

     Little Red Hen finally secures the help of her own kind, and their investigations yield the nasty truth: Farmer Green is planning to build a barn that would lock up all the animals for good! Of course, the barnyard animals laugh off Little Red Hen's warnings and are tricked into heading into the barn by Farmer Green. Little Red Hen, however, comes to the rescue. She and her chicks lock up Farmer Green instead, and the barnyard animals have a celebration while Farmer Green looks on from his self made prison. Of course, the readers are reminded, everyone cleans up after themselves for they had learned a lesson in industriousness.

     The illustrations, with their thick bold lines and bright colours, suit the jaunty tone of the story, and the text is large without being babyish. While the story makes more use of the passive voice and the reporting of action, the dialogue between the resourceful protagonist and her lazy barnyard friends make up for it. Much more is at stake in this version of the story than in the original as the animals escape captivity. However, more perceptive readers may wonder how long Farmer Green would stay locked up and if it is only a matter of time before the animals will meet their fate. “Tadpoles: Fairytale Twists”’ latest addition to their stock of re-imagined tales derived from the folk tradition, as well as literary sources, would make for fun, independent reading for new readers and a good read aloud and guided discussion for those reading with their child or students. Helpful questions at the back, as well as exercises for readers to sequence the story and to identify which character said which quotes, are excellent additional resources to augment a reader's understanding and enjoyment of the resourceful and indefatigable Little Red Hen.


Ellen Wu is teen services librarian at Surrey Libraries in Surrey, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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