In my pursuit of folktales that have not been checked out much at my local library, I discovered Pretty Salma by Niki Daly (Clarion, 2006). Usually I am quite neutral when it comes to variants on Little Red Riding Hood, but this one had me dancing a small jig around the house.
Pretty Salma goes to market for her grandma. “Straight there and back again…And don’t talk to strangers, you hear?” grandma admonished. Salma promises but her basket is so heavy that she decides to take a short-cut through the wild side of town! There she meets a stranger, Mr. Dog. He tricks her out of her clothes by pretending to be helpful. When he has acquired all her belongings, he strikes a pose asking, “How do I look?” before dashing off for Grandma’s house. Well, Salma quickly finds her grandpa, a traditional storyteller and, at the moment, dressed up in his Anansi costume. That gives Salma an idea. She puts on a bogeyman mask and together the two rush to grandma’s house and scare away Mr. Dog.
The tone of the story is so lively and fun-filled that it begs to be read out loud. In fact, I had to read it to some young friends (6 and 7 year olds) who loved it. It took us 7 minutes, but you might want to spend more time lingering over the colorful urban West African details as well as the lilting Ghanaian words. The illustrations are almost cartoon-like, tremendously humorous and expressive. In all this is a Riding Hood story that as the jacket says, “ combines the new and old and spans cultures as successfully as it has spanned the centuries.” Go find it!
Here’s a link to a fun interview where Niki Daly tells the story of how he got inspiration for this story. It’s cute.
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