A Strong New Twist on an Old Story

I love to connect familiar stories to new ideas to get students to think creatively. Little Red Riding Hood and the Dragon by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by Joy Ang is the perfect book to make that connection. My only regret is that I did not own it before Lunar New Year, then I could have made the three-way connection between Red Riding Hood in the traditional version, Little Red Riding Hood and the Dragon, and the Lunar New Year celebration. Of course, every book has a connection to making in my classroom. I wonder how much trouble I would get into for bringing in a Tai Chi saber to go with the story. That would be a great connection, too. My Tai Chi saber is not sharp. I am too clumsy to be given long, sharp objects. The martial arts connection is a great way to get kids excited about a book, so I might get away with it. As you can see, I could make several lessons from this book, but let’s get on with the maker space lesson.

In this version, Little Red is a kung-fu fighter. A dragon approaches Little Red and later swallows her and her grandmother. The dragon has made a grave mistake in swallowing Little Red. Once she has comforted her grandmother, she immediately surveys her surroundings for objects she can use to get out of the dragon’s stomach. Because he is a hungry dragon, she has many objects to work with and uses them to good effect. I see a great opportunity to talk about Rube Goldberg machines. Students could brainstorm a plan to escape from the dragon’s stomach using loose parts, cardboard, or any sort of recyclables.

Little Red and the Dragon gives many opportunities to question assumptions and think creatively. The narrator of the story is the wolf, who is defending himself against charges of being cruel to children and grandmas. Little Red as a kung-fu expert and problem-solver is definitely a different take on that character. I would probably begin with a Venn diagram to compare this book with the traditional version of the story. I would ask them to talk or write about the ways their thinking is different after having read Little Red and the Dragon. Questioning assumptions and divergent thinking are key skills for engineering and design and this book stretches conventional thinking in many areas. We should always stretch students’ perspectives if we want to create thinkers and designers.

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