A little girl cloaked in red has every intention of bringing a picnic basket to her grandmother, who lives in a house in the woods. While she's out walking, she encounters a big--and, it must be said, bad-looking--wolf. You know where this is going... or do you?

Red's left-hand pages tell the same old story: the imposing wolf tries to intimidate the girl in red. But the right-hand pages tell the real story: various woodland animals clutching balloons, streamers and so forth sneak past the squaring-off girl and wolf, whose ambition, it turns out, is not to eat her but to distract her from the promenade of party guests. After the wolf finally lets her go on her way, the girl makes it safely to Grandmother's house, where she gets the shock of her life: she finds not a wolf in Grandma's clothing but a surprise birthday party in her honor.

There have been an incalculable number of picture book retellings of "Little Red Riding Hood," but Red may be the first wordless one, and it's certainly among those that most gleefully dash expectations--both the girl's and the reader's. Jed Alexander has given himself a tough assignment: he not only restricts himself to a wordless format but limits himself to a black-and-white palette with occasional red or pink accents. The result is a swift, smart-looking and wily inverted fairy tale in which the only thing the wolf has his eye on devouring is a piece of Red's triple-layer birthday cake. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

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