Little Red Writing by Joan Holub, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet, Reviewed by Wendy Lucy

Little Red Writing by Joan Holub (Chronicle Books, 2013) is a story that displays fractured fairy tale inspiration while showcasing the writing process in a clever, kid-friendly story. Full of puns and word play, Little Red Writing is illustrated with a marriage of college, pencil, and watercolors created by Melissa Sweet. Chronicle Books has provided an official preview on its website which you can view through this link.

The main character, Little Red, has the assignment to write a story from her teacher, Ms. 2. Little Red decides that writing a story about being brave is the way to go “because red is the color of courage.”  When Little Red starts to draft her story, she feels as if it isn’t exciting enough. She journeys to the school’s gym to pick up some inspiration for verbs. Then, Little Red bounces and boogies her way out of the gym and finds herself on an outside forest path that is full of adjectives. Despite the abundance of inspiration in the outdoor setting such as “dark,” “deep,” and “deciduous,” Little Red feels overwhelmed with the array of word choices. She remembers the advice that Ms. 2 gave to her, which was to stay on the path so her writing doesn’t wander off topic. Little Red then comes across the school supply closet and meets the “conjunction glue.” The adhesive assures Little Red that it can help her because it declares, “I’m full of words that have stick-to-it-iveness.”

Despite the contributions of the conjunction glue, Little Red finds that her writing has no punctuation because the conjunctions make a giant run on sentence. A truckload of adverbs drives by and a suspicious package shows up in a boarded up crate. Frightened but curious, Little Red trails a sprinting electrical cord through the school until she finds herself in Principal Granny’s office. Much like Little Red Riding Hood when she arrived at her grandmother’s house, Little Red finds herself face to face with her enemy, a pencil sharpener called the Wolf 3000. When it is all said and done, Little Red truly has a great tale to tell her classroom.

Little Red Writing has been popping up on a variety of 2013 best books lists recently, including on Kirkus Best Children’s Books of 2013 and School Library Journal’s Best Books of 2013 lists. In addition, Little Red Writing is listed as a finalist in the 2013 Nerdy Awards. Be sure to explore this book and see what learning path this story will take you on with your students!


I have included a link here to a Google Doc where I have given several suggestions on ways Little Red Writing could be used instructionally. You will find complimentary texts, comprehension strategy suggestions, writing mentor ideas, and Internet links within the document.

Wendy Lucy is a reading specialist in Williamsburg, VA. She can be followed on Twitter at @wmsbg301. Her blog, MW Reading and Writing, can be accessed through this link: Mrs. Lucy also currently serves on the Williamsburg Area Reading Council board, where she blogs for WARC ( and maintains the council’s Facebook page (