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*The Little Red Elf* by Barbara Barbieri McGrath, illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet
Also by Barbara Barbieri McGrath:

Teddy Bear Counting (McGrath Math)

The Little Green Witch

Also illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet:

The Art Collector
The Little Red Elf
by Barbara Barbieri McGrath, illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet
Ages 3-5 32 pages Charlesbridge July 2009 Hardcover    

There is no hen in The Little Red Elf, nor is anyone is baking bread, but you can still tell it’s an adaptation of the children’s folktale “The Little Red Hen.” In this new book by Barbara Barbieri McGrath, the Little Red Hen has been replaced by the Little Red Elf, and the farmyard animals have been replaced by a hare, a reindeer, and a penguin. The Little Red Elf, which is set in the North Pole, begins with an open view of Santa’s workshop and ends with a surprise on Christmas morning.

Just like the Little Red Hen, the Little Red Elf is a good worker - but she needs some help. She asks the hare, the reindeer, and the penguin to help her grow a pine tree, but they all make excuses. The hare is always too tired, and the penguin and the reindeer are always too busy playing.

The only time they want to help the Little Red Elf is on Christmas morning. There are lots of presents to unwrap that morning. They race to the tree to open them, but what they see inside the presents gives them big, red cheeks and worried looks in their eyes. Hare, Reindeer, and Penguin look embarrassed, but the Little Red Elf appears happy. Santa has managed to send the “perfect gifts.”

Although her three friends won’t help her, the Little Red Elf is never alone. When she’s outside planting the pine cone, birds surround her and perch on her hat. When she waters the pine tree, mice come out of their homes to see what she’s doing. When she brings the pine tree into the workshop, several animals follow her in.

Personalities are revealed on the first page of this story by giving readers an inside look at the workshop. Everyone is relaxing except the Little Red Elf. She works in the toy shop while Hare drags his blanket downstairs, Penguin gets ready for a bath, and Reindeer rests in his hay.

The Little Red Elf works from 9am to 4pm while the others do whatever they want. They especially like to say “no” to work. The reindeer is the politest of the group when he says no to the Little Red Elf, saying “Not I.” The penguin says things like “What’s with all the questions?” and the hare mumbles “Did someone say something?”

The pale blue skies and light yellow backgrounds, along with the views of the snow falling outside, give this story a quiet, calm feel. In addition, Christmas garland decorates the top of many pages of the last few pages of the book, and different-colored stars and snowflakes are scattered throughout, reminding readers of Christmas magic.

This holiday adaptation of “The Little Red Hen” teaches children the importance of helping one another. It may also make some adults chuckle as it shows that Santa is always watching!

Barbara Barbieri McGrath was a preschool teacher for sixteen years. A graduate of Lasell College, Barbara is the author of the children’s books Soccer Counts! and The Little Green Witch. She lives in Massachusetts.

Rosalinde Bonnet used acrylic paint and black ballpoint pen for her illustrations in The Little Red Elf. Her animals look cute because they are small and round, and her elf looks sweet and cheerful because of her Christmas outfit, her wide-open eyes, and her little smile. Bonnet has illustrated several children’s pictures book from her home in France.

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  Tanya Boudreau/2009 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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