RED is a brilliant interweaving of fairy tales with a focus on Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and even a good portion of Beauty and the Beast and Snow White and Rose Red. The connections between some of the characters from different tales are genius. In particular, the twist on Beauty and the Beast is one I’ve never seen done before, but Shurtliff pulls it off seamlessly. The friendship between Red and Goldie is also unexpected (as those two tales are rarely put together), but they are a hilarious and sweet pair. Even if you haven’t read Shurtliff’s previous works, there’s an ease of sinking into this magical world that new and old readers alike will love.
One of the masterpieces of the story is the presentation of death. Death, especially in middle grade books, is a very heavy topic. Red is worried about her Granny’s health and the potential death there. However, while death is blatantly discussed among many characters, all offering a different perspective, it never feels overwhelming or depressing. It presents death as realistically as possible with sincere thought. It allows readers of any age to ponder on such a difficult subject in a safe, honest, and even practical fashion.
RED is a story of life, death, friendship, and fairy tale, and readers shouldn’t be surprised if they reach the end only to turn back to the first page for another magical experience.