A little over five years ago, I started making a felt board version of Little Red Riding Hood. I headed to the Internet to find a couple of different versions, so I could decide which figures I would use and how I would tell the story. I found this Italian version, and was completely sidetracked. That felt story is still unfinished. But my fascination with this old tale was renewed, and I started dreaming about doing an in-depth study of Little Red.
When I learned about the Louise Seaman Bechtel Fellowship, I immediately thought of Little Red Riding Hood. I wrote an application in 2012, but it wasn’t the right time, so I did not submit it. In December 2016, an email came through the ALSC list, announcing a deadline extension for the Fellowship. After checking in with my boss, who said it was OK for me to take a month off work, I decided to dust off that old application and send it in. It was obviously the right time, because lo and behold, I was awarded the fellowship. It is hard to explain how exciting this is— but book lovers seem to get it. Imagine: for a whole month my job is to read copies of Little Red Riding Hood held at the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature of the George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville. That’s right, my job will be to do pretty much nothing but READ! How many times have you wanted that to be your job?
Unexpectedly, others have expressed interest in this adventure. I was interviewed by our local CBC radio, who focused on the “gruesome” aspect of the story. While I am fascinated by the gruesome versions of the tale, that’s not the only thing that has me gripped by this red-cloaked child. Another article appeared in a regional paper, which lots of people have seen — I now get stopped on the street, by people I don’t know, who congratulate me. I’ve had some really interesting conversations about Little Red Riding Hood with complete strangers!
One of the requirements of the fellowship is to write a report, and to do three public presentations on my research, so you’ll be hearing more about our darling Red. In the meantime, if you have a particular interest in historic children’s literature, start thinking about this fellowship. Applications are open every year, so it could be your turn to explore. And now, I’m off to read another version of Little Red Riding Hood.