May 6, 2016

Little Red Riding Hood: A Collection of Retellings

When I took over for the previous librarian at the elementary schools where I worked in Massachusetts, I discovered that she LOVED Cinderella.

She had collected enough different Cinderella stories that she had enough to read one every week to the first graders for the entire year.

I didn't continue that tradition (because my attention span is too short to read the same version of one story over and over again for a year), but I enjoyed looking through them and seeing the similarities and differences.

Since then, I've loved reading different versions of the same story and my girls get a huge kick out of it too.

Recently, I requested every Little Red Riding Hood story I could find, and we enjoyed reading them all and comparing the different ones.

Here are the ones we liked best:

A round-up of the best Little red Riding Hood retellings

Little Red Riding Hood retold and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
If it's good enough for the Caldecott committee, it's good enough for me (that's not a hard and fast rule, but in this case it is). I love the beautiful, old-fashioned feeling illustrations and the retelling of the classic. My girls can't get enough of this one, and even though I usually go for a book that's a little less text-heavy, in this case, I don't mind a bit.

Pretty Salma: A Little Red Riding Hood Story from Africa by Niki Daly
This African version was probably my girls' very favorite about Salma who goes to pick up groceries for her granny and takes a shortcut through the wild side of town and meets Mr. Dog who convinces her to lend him her clothing, piece by piece. When he eventually is dressed as Salma, he returns to Granny and tries to fool her into thinking he's Salma. Ella asked almost every time, "If you were hugging me and felt a tail, you'd know it wasn't me, right?" Yes, I'm pretty sure I would realize it wasn't my child. Let the record show that Bart wasn't particularly a fan of this one - he thought the illustrations were a little off-putting.

Carmine: A Little More Red by Melissa Sweet
I absolutely love Melissa Sweet's illustration style and this book is one of her best. It's a fun mash-up of the Little Red Riding Hood story and an alphabet book, with lots of excellent words like "dilly-dally" and "voila" thrown in, which makes reading it aloud extra fun. And Melissa Sweet's illustration style with lots of collages means there are endless interesting things to look at and fun little surprises tucked into every page. (I also need to get my hands on her Little Red Writing).

Little Red Hot by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith
I first discovered this book when it was on the Texas 2x2 list and I probably read it to Ella 50 times. I love that the Big Bad Wolf is called SeƱor Lobo and I always do my best (or worst, probably) Texas drawl for Little Red Hot. Also, I always want some quiche afterward.

Very Little Red Riding Hood by Teresa Heapy, illustrated by Sue Heap
In this one, Little Red is extremely little. Toddler little (assuming toddlers are sent to walk to their grandmother's house alone). When she meets the wolf along the way, they go to Grandma's house together for a little sleepover, but when bedtime arrives, that turns out to be much more scary for a little homesick girl than a wolf could ever hope to be.

Little Red Riding Hood adapted from The Brothers Grimm by Gennady Spirin
This one is really fun because the illustrations are done in a 17th century Dutch style, so it's a little like walking through a European art museum (but your feet aren't so tired at the end). I also love that there's a little background on the history of the Little Red Riding Hood story in the front. Definitely worth including in your Little Red collection.

Red Riding Hood retold and Illustrated by James Marshall
You guys, I love James Marshall so much. His books just tickle my funny bone. Even after reading a huge stack of Little Red retellings, his was fresh and hilarious ("And he gobbled her right up. 'I'm so wicked,; he said. 'So wicked.' But really he was enormously pleased with himself."). Probably my next goal in life should be to build up my James Marshall collection, which currently is a pathetic zero.

Ninja Red Riding Hood by Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Dan Santat
Oh man, this one is fun. It's all done in limmerick and the big bad wolf is so so hungry because the Three Little Pigs have taught everyone Ninja skills and he can't find a meal. He decides to take some classes and then feels ready to take on Little Red. But. . . he might not be ready.

If you have other favorite Little Red books, I'd love to hear about them!

May 4, 2016

Settling In

It's been nearly ten months since we moved to Arizona.

I've moved enough now to recognize that, for me at least, it takes close to a year to start feel like I really belong somewhere.

Once we start approaching that year mark, our lives start to settle in.

I have friends I can call to meet up at the park on a Friday morning and Bart has friends to play tennis with after the girls are in bed. We can have a Pi Day party and feel like we know a decent amount of people to invite over. My girls get asked to the occasional birthday party. We have babysitters that the girls are comfortable with and that know our home and routine so I don't have to start from scratch every time we want to go out without the girls.

By this point, I start to have my favorite places. The library branch I like the most, the parks that are the most fun for my kids, a grocery store that I can navigate with my eyes closed. I don't have to pull out Google Maps or my GPS every single time I back out of the garage.

When I run into someone I know as we're out and about, that makes me feel like we really belong somewhere. When my Facebook feed and phone start to fill up with new friends that live within a 20 minute drive, that's a good sign.

Around the year mark, not only are all the boxes long unpacked, but things have been moved and rearranged as we get a better sense of how we use our home.

Recently, Bart said to me, "I'm starting to feel like we could stay here" and I told him I was feeling just the same way.

When I drove back to Arizona from Mom 2.0 last weekend, as I drove into Phoenix and then into our neighborhood, I felt that quiet sense of relaxation - this is home.

May 3, 2016

Blue Cheese and Bacon Pitas

These chicken, bacon, and blue cheese pitas are perfect for a quick weeknight dinner

What is it about pitas that is so appealing?

For some reason, I just love the idea of tucking my entire meal into a little bread pocket.

(Of course, the reality is that half the time you end up ripping a hole in said bread pocket and the entire meal ends up on your plate, but let's pretend that NEVER happens).

I started making this recipe when we lived in Boston, more than six years ago, and it's stayed in the rotation since then.

Ella doesn't love blue cheese, but she'll eat it in this form, since it's softened considerably by the yogurt and mayo.

Ani, on the other hand, will eat the entire container of straight blue cheese while I'm making dinner, if I don't keep a close eye on her. That girl has never met a cheese she doesn't like.

These chicken, bacon, and blue cheese pitas are perfect for a quick weeknight dinner

These chicken, bacon, and blue cheese pitas are perfect for a quick weeknight dinner

Blue Cheese and Bacon Pitas
(adapted from Cooking Light)

3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup rumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
3/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes
4 pitas, cut in half

Combine first 4 ingredients in a bowl and whisk with a fork to combine. Add the chicken and bacon and stir to coat.

Fill the pitas with lettuce, tomatoes, and chicken/bacon mixture.

Serve immediately

These chicken, bacon, and blue cheese pitas are perfect for a quick weeknight dinner


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