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on November 29, 2001
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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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.
The girls share their story with their mother when she returns the next day.
As you can see, the story is much like Little Red Riding Hood. No one is harmed by the wolf, which makes the story a little less terrifying and horrible. The battle of wits is significant here, as in Little Red Riding Hood. The book also displays the issues involved around children being home alone, and the need for children to communicate and cooperate with each other. Shang probably would not have let the wolf in.
After you finish enjoying the story and its illustrations and thinking about how it differs from Little Red Riding Hood, I suggest you also think about why stories about wild animals attacking from the woods are common to many cultures. Why do you think these stories were told originally? Why have they persisted in having appeal? Do you think they will be popular 1000 years from now? Why?
Enjoy and appreciate differences!
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on July 20, 2002
Through artful suggestions that open spaces for imagination's supply of satisfying horrors and triumphant solutions, the unusually fine illustrations first pique terror, then confidence. Three children share the problem of a sudden wolf, of being prey, rather than a lone girl. Each child contributes to the solution in accordance with the age intelligence level of the child. Intelligence is the story's primary agent in opposing the wiles of a crafty wolf.
There is no hint of rape, the wolf does not attack, no blood drips. The wolf's eye, or snout--a piece of wolf face writ large--is shudderingly present; the children are expressive, open children, like children everywhere.
This version, a story of alerted intellect laced with fear, offers each reader personal paths through the story; the problem, the solution. Readers will find new thoughts with each reading.
This is a pleasing version with superior, beautiful, art that adds immeasurably to the story.
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on July 28, 2001
Lon Po Po is a 1990 Caldecott medal winner. The author transforms the well known Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale into a Chinese Red Riding Hood Story. The story begins when three sisters are left home alone and someone comes to their door pretending to be their Po Po. The girls soon discover it's a wolf at their door. The author keeps the reader's attention by having the main characters devise a plan to lure the wolf up a tree. It's not until the end when the reader finds out the fate of the wolf. Young uses abstract and realistic illustrations with a lot of vibrant colors and shadows throughout the book which adds to the suspense. I loved how the author uses three picture sequences throughout the book which resemble Chinese decorative panels. Teachers, parents, and students will love this Chinese Red Riding Hood fairy tale and you will too!
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on August 1, 2001
Lon Po Po is a 1990 Children's Choice Book. This is a Chinese version of the traditional story of Little Red Riding Hood. Three sisters, Shang, Tao, and Paotze must defend themselves against a frightening wolf while their mother is gone visiting their grandmother for her birthday. Lon Po Po is an excellent book with amazing illustrations, which are a combination of abstract and realistic shadowy images. Second and third graders could enjoy reading the fairy tale, a popular genre of young readers. While different from the traditional story of Little Red Riding Hood, children will enjoy trying to predict what will happen next. I feel that teachers will find this book as enjoyable as children and consider it a high quality piece of literature. It is well written and illustrated.
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on April 14, 2000
This book is a Red-Riding Hood Story from China but, unlike other versions I've seen, this time it is the mother who goes off to see Grandma and the three daughters are left home alone. I liked how this story showed that the three sisters could work together to save themselves from the wolf, It also shows children how being impatient can get you into a lot of trouble. My favorite part of the book was the illustrations and it is easy to understand why it won the Caldecott Medal. These illustrations are very reminiscent of Chinese watercolors or chalk drawings; they have a very soft and wispy feeling to them. The author is not only a good writer but a good illustrator as well since he was able to perform both of these functions with as much skill as he has talent.
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on October 23, 2001
I think it is a good book for ages 8 and up. Because I read it to my two little siblings; Jessica, age 7 and Brendan, age 4; and they thought it was to scary for them.
It was interesting because: it was kind of a backwards story of Little Red Riding Hood which I thought was something new instead of the same old story; I liked how the children in the story out-smarted the wolf by tricking him into allowing them to pull him up in a basket in a tall tree and that's how they captured him and killed him; and I thought it was neat that other countries have this story also, their story, though, is different in some ways but a lot a like in others.
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on March 11, 2001
I used this story with my third graders in a cooperative learning project. After spending several days reading, discussing, and comparing this story to other versions of "Little Red Riding Hood", students worked in groups to create a puppet show re-telling the story. They chose parts, wrote dialogue, and designed props for their show. After performing their shows for our own class, we entertained the second grade classes in the building. My students walked away having a much greater understanding of the story through this hands-on experience.
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on April 10, 2002
This is the Chinese version of "Little Red Riding Hood." The main characters are a wolf and three sisters - Shang, Tao, and Paotze. The story takes place in the country, where the girls live with their mother.
The wolf wants to eat the three sisters. The girls solve their problem by tricking the wolf. You'll have to read the book yourself to see what happens.
If you like this book, another book by Ed Young you might like is "The Lost Horse."
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This children's book is a story similar to the classic "Red-Riding Hood" story except that it is based an a folktale from China. A mother has to leave her three children in a house and a wolf tries to take advantage but the children are able to use their wits. The book won the 1990 Caldecott Medal for best illustrations in a book for children and it is beautifully illustrated.
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