Lon Po Po is a multicultural children’s picture book, both written and illustrated by Ed Young (1989). Within the story, the sisters, Shang, Tao, and Paotze are staying home alone while their mother visits their grandmother. While away, a wolf disguises himself as the grandmother and tricks the girls into letting him into their house. Eventually the oldest sister discovers his true identity, and concocts a way to get rid of the wolf. In the end, the wolf dies and the girls await their mother’s return.
Lon Po Po can be categorized within the folklore/folktale genre, as it is a “red-riding hood story from China” (Young, 1989). When considering the story’s language and illustrations, Lon Po Po is a quality piece of literature. To begin with, this translated tale “reflects the cultural integrity of early retellings” (Galda et al., 2010, p. 178). Young (1989) clearly introduces and describes the characters through text descriptions and behavior within the story. The plot is sequential, as the sisters encounter a conflict with the wolf, and the tale’s conclusion provides pleasant closure when the girls outsmart the wolf. Also, the language used within the story flows naturally in a third-person narrative format, and is appropriate and comprehendible for children. The themes found within the tale are also universally significant, as obeying one’s parents and not trusting strangers is important for all children (Galda et al., 2010). Lastly, Young’s (1989) illustrations portray excellence, as the panel-like watercolor pictures complement the narrative.
The author, Ed Young was born in China but currently resides in New York. As a child, Young read a lot, no matter the type of literature. Growing up, Young knew that he wanted to pursue something artistic, which led him to illustrate for many other authors before writing and illustrating for himself. Young is especially inspired by nature and folklore, which can be seen within both his writing and illustrations. Several books that Young has written and illustrated include Cat and Rat, I, Doko, and Night Visitors.
When I first read that Lon Po Po was a translated version of the Little Red Riding Hood story, I was afraid that I would favor the classic tale due to its incorporation into my childhood. After reading the story, however, I actually preferred the Lon Po Po version. I loved the cleverness and courage of the 3 sisters as they noticed the danger they were in, and worked to escape the situation. I also paged through the story several times just to take in Young’s beautiful illustrations. Young combined breathtaking illustrations with an inspiring narrative; what more could we want? Vicki Blackwell’s (2003) website displayed 2 illustrations from Lon Po Po which can be viewed below.
Below are 2 motivational activities and reader response questions that would be beneficial for students within the classroom:
- The first activity would involve reading a classic version of Little Red Riding Hood, and the Chinese version, Lon Po Po. After reading both stories as a class, students would partner up and complete a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting the 2 versions. Students would be urged to keep literary elements in mind, as well as the quality of the illustrations in each. After the partnerships completed the Venn diagrams, there would be a class discussion on the similarities and differences of the 2 stories. I would also be curious to learn which version the students liked better and why.
- The second activity would be a “transition” assignment that would be great for active engagement in the classroom. As the students will be writing their own versions of Little Red Riding Hood within the folklore unit, I would focus on the way Young (1989) used transition words throughout his story to help organize the events and to help the tale flow freely. Each time the students hear me read a transition word, I want them to put their hands out in a “stop” position. Several transition words include but are not limited to first, to begin with, finally, then, now, the next day, once, and so on. After the story is read, I will have the students do a class “retell” of the events that occurred using transition words.
Reader Response Questions:
- Did you like the ending of the book? Why or why not?
- Are there any words or questions that you have from this version? If so, let’s try to answer them as a class!
- If you were an author, what would you change about this story/version?
Blackwell, V. (2003). Lon Po Po [online images]. Retrieved from
Galda, L., Cullinan, B.E., Sipe, L. R. (2010). Literature and the Child (7th ed.). Belmont, CA:
Young, E. (1989). Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood story from China. New York, NY: Penguin