'The Red Wolf'

Children's Book Is Clever Take on Traditional Fairy Tale Form

The Red Wolf book jacket

The Red Wolf, by Margaret Shannon (Houghton Mifflin, 2002). hide caption

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Of all the images that have sprung out of the pages of fairy tales over the centuries, perhaps the most familiar is that of a beautiful princess confined high in a tower. In The Red Wolf, a new book by Margaret Shannon, that princess is named Roselupin, and she passes the time by knitting and plotting her escape. Daniel Pinkwater, NPR's ambassador to the world of children's literature, joins NPR's Scott Simon to read from the book.

Locked up by an overprotective father, Roselupin yearns to venture into the "wild and dangerous" world. Her chance to escape comes when, on her seventh birthday, she receives a golden box full of wool with magical properties. Roselupin knits herself a red wolf suit that allows her to flee the confines of her tower and romp among the villagers. But when she wanders into the forest, her clever plan begins to unravel.

The setting for The Red Wolf is loosely based on an old fortress town in the Czech Republic that author and illustrator Shannon discovered during her travels. Shannon later returned to live there for seven months, during which time she began developing the illustrations for the book. Pinkwater calls the book "an especially nice example" of a children's book in the old middle-European tradition.

"This is a serious children's book of the old school, and it's a good one," Pinkwater says.

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