Little Red Writing: Book review

A fun, witty read about a pencil who sets out to write a story, but runs into all the pitfalls of grammar along the way. Photo: Melissa Sweet

Silver Spring, Md, November 9, 2013 – It is story writing day at pencil school, and the teacher, Mrs 2, giver her class the guidelines for how a story should proceed. Each student has a different idea for their tale, but Little Red had an ambitious story plan.

As she set out on her story path, Mrs. 2 gave Little Red a basket of words to use in case she ran into trouble. Red begins her story slowly, but decides it needs more excitement, and  she is drawn into the action of her own story right off the page and into a “deep, dark, descriptive forest,” that is cluttered with adjectives. Red uses her first word from the basket to cut through all the excess description and get back to the story. 

Photo by J. Aaron Farr. Click to enlarge.


She finds her way out of the forest, but gets stuck writing a never ending sentence, when a pack of adverbs arrive. Suddenly, she hears a loud sound right in the middle of her story where she feels something exciting should happen, and she decides to use all capital letters and large punctuation. But when the growly sound she had heard starts chasing her, Little Red forgets all the rules of punctuation and sentence structure in her attempt to flee. Trying to escape, she starts randomly throwing words from her basket to fill the page so she could move onto the next one.

When she turns the page, Little Red sees a long tail disappear around the corner. Little Red knows that the tail belonged to something that was up to no good. She follows the tail across the following pages until it leads her to the office of Principal Granny. When Little Red knocked on the door, she hears a growly voice answer her. Once Little Red enters the principal’s office, readers are greeted by a variation on the “My what big eyes, you have,” dialogue from the traditional telling of Little Red Riding Hood, although, in this version of the story, the wolf has been replaced by an electric pencil sharpener.

The pencil sharpener (the Wolf 3000TM) chases Little Red and almost catches her when the janitor, Mr. Woodcutter, enters and…promptly faints. Little Red, left on her own, uses the last word in her basket (dynamite) and throws it at the principal. The Wolf 3000 is destroyed, and Little Red finds Principal Granny inside the ruins of the pencil sharpener. After saving the day, Little Red runs back to her classroom to share her story of bravery with the other pencils in her class.

Little Red Writing is a clever tale that helps teach not only story structure, but also addresses some of the common pitfalls of storytelling that can bog down good writing. Through using the Little Red Riding Hood story, it gives kids a familiar base while the author and illustrator have masterfully filled the tale with wit that is sure to be appreciated by both students and adults alike. Aside from addressing a more advanced concept like story structure, Little Red Writing also helps put the parts of speech into a visual context that might make the different between adjectives, adverbs and nouns easier to grasp.

This book is better for older children (the publisher recommends ages 5-8) who are learning to write or has already learned. It is a clever tale that helps teach the parts of speech in a fun manner with a story that is familiar. Melissa Sweet’s witty watercolors bring the little red pencil to life and her inclusions of words help make the story more educational while also making the lessons being taught more accessible.  

Little Red Writing also has an available Common Core Guide available for educators to download, and teachers will find this a fun addition to any classroom bookshelf.  

Author Joan Holub is a seasoned children’s author. She has written over a hundred books. Illustrator Melissa Sweet is a Caldecott Medal Honoree for her work in The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant.  Over the 60 children’s books she has illustrated, Sweet has also won a Parents Choice Award, a Texas Bluebonnet Award, the 2003 Minnesota Book Award for younger nonfiction, the 2012 Sibert Medal, the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award, an ALA Notable Book, the Flora Stieglitz Strauss Award, and the Cook Prize.

Photo by Robynlou Kavanagh.


Little Red Writing (ISBN: 978-0-8118-7869-2) by Joan Holub and illustrated by Melissa Sweet was published by Chronicle Books on September 24, 2013. It is available as a hardcover or ebook.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Brighid Moret

Brighid is a freelance writer and first time mother.  She holds an MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University.  Find her on Facebook @Brighid Moret


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