cover image Little Red Cowboy Hat

Little Red Cowboy Hat

Susan Lowell. Henry Holt & Company, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-3508-7

This Southwestern version of Little Red Riding Hood features a tomboyish main character, a wolf as sleazy as any streetcorner lothario and a distinct self-defense theme. Lowell's (The Three Little Javelinas) outwardly tough Little Red wears a sheriff's badge and shoots rattlesnakes with her slingshot. However, she's intimidated by her aggressor, who steps from behind a cactus and blocks her path (""She didn't want to talk to him, but she'd been raised to be polite""). Later, as Little Red flees the wolf in Grandma's house, Grandma bursts into the bedroom with an ax (she has been chopping wood). Together the two frontierswomen chase the wolf away, and the tale ends on an up-to-date empowerment note: "" `Now, Red, have you learned your lesson?' asked Grandma. `Yep. A girl's gotta stick up for herself,' said Little Red."" Cecil (Baby's Breakfast) contributes flat, angular gouache illustrations of desert scenes. He fills thin black outlines with coloring-book precision, in shades of sunset orange, oversaturated yellow and green. His light-gray wolf towers over the thin and frightened Little Red, playing up the tension Lowell builds into the text before she defuses it with Grandma's 10-gallon talk: ""That yellow-bellied, snake-blooded, skunk-eyed, rancid son of a parallelogram!... This time he picked the wrong grandma."" Ages 5-8. (Mar.)