Knock. Knock. Who’s There?: A Review of ‘Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China’

“Never trust a stranger-friend; no one knows how it will end.  As you’re pretty, so be wise; wolves may lurk in every guise.” – Charles Perrault, Little Red Riding Hood

Reading Level:  

2.6         [according to Scholastic – reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

K – 1      [according to common core]

3.5         [AR]

Interest Level:    K-2         [Ages  6-8]

A little house…. a basket…. a grandmother….. and a wolf.   These are all familiar elements in the fairy tale Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China. The reader will be intrigued with this version of the story while mentally checking off differences and similarities to the more familiar traditional tale.

The story begins with the customary visit to Grandmother, but this time it is the mother who visits Grandmother while her three children stay home.  As any concerned mother, she warns them to keep the door locked because she will be gone overnight.  This of course is a clue to the discerning reader that they may not follow her instructions and that disobedience will put them in great danger.

A horrid wolf lurks nearby and the unprotected children are now fair game.  He immediately disguises himself to look like Po Po, their grandmother.  The children of course are suspicious when the wolf comes to the door and claims to be Po Po.  Why is she visiting so late?  Why is her voice so low?  Even though the children are cautious they forget their mother’s warning and let the wolf in the house. The children do not immediately notice the very unusual features of the wolf but after awhile and some close contact, they do begin to notice some peculiarities. Each time the children point out these features, Po Po, AKA the wolf, has an explanation – rather odd ones but explanations nonetheless.

The oldest child has some sense about her and realizes this old woman, who has the hairy face of a wolf, is not her Po Po so she devises a two-part plan to save herself and her siblings.  Part 1 – She tempts the wolf’s appetite with magic gingko nuts which grow on the tree outside the house.  Of course the wolf cannot climb a tree so the children volunteer to get the nuts for him.  The children are safe in the tree, and the wolf, who seemed so clever at the beginning of the story, is consumed by greed for the magic nuts and falls right into the second part of the plan. Part 2 – The children use a basket and rope to pull the wolf into the tree so he can reach the nuts himself.  They pull the wolf up part way three times and let the basket drop each time.  The third time the basket falls from the greatest height, and the wolf is injured so badly in the fall he dies.

Then the children wait for their mother to return when they will explain everything  – all the events of the previous night and how they tricked and then killed the wolf dressed up like Po Po.

A young reader will find this story interesting and will be able to point out the many differences from the Red Riding Hood stories he or she has heard before.  The reading range is well suited for the recommended reading range.

Possible Concerns:

The obvious concern is the proximity of the wolf to the children.

If this is used as a read aloud book, younger children may find the pictures of the wolf sinister looking.

The wolf dies because of the children’s ingenuity.

Further Discussion:

This story is perfect for comparing literature.  There are many ways this can be done.

  • Venn Diagram – Use a large paper or poster to make the diagram as there will be a lot of information to record.
  • Make a chart.  Divide the chart in half. Write the titles of the two books being compared in each half. Divide each half into columns labeled: characters, setting, events, and lesson.
  • Make a chart. Divide the chart in half.  In the middle of each side draw a picture of the wolf dressed as the grandmother in a bed and at a door.  Then in large circles around the wolf, draw the characters: Red Riding Hood and 3 children, mothers, houses, forest and gingko tree, woodcutter and basket with rope, basket of goodies, etc.

Make a book.

  • Page 1 – Draw a picture of a real wolf and a wolf dressed as grandmother. Under each picture list adjectives (traits of fictional and real wolf).
  • Page 2 – Write 3 things from the story that are fiction and 3 things that are real.
  • Page 3 – Divide the page in half. List “Good” characteristics and “Evil” characteristics from the story.
  • Page 4 – “It often takes three tries to solve the problem in fairy tale.” Draw a picture of the solution and write a sentence about the picture.
  • Page 5 – “Fairy tales usually teach a lesson.” Explain the lesson.
  • Page 6 – “Fairy tales have enchanted settings – forests, castles, kingdoms.” Draw a picture of the house and gingko tree.
  • Page 7 – Write a sentence about the beginning, the middle, and the end.
  • Page 8 – Color a map of China on a world map.

[Discussion questions after reading the story.

  • Why do you think the children opened the door after their mother told them to keep it locked?
  • What do you think the mother said after she heard the story of the wolf especially after she told her children to keep the door locked?
  • What would you have done if you were in the house and heard a knock at the door?
  • Which version of Little Red Riding Hood do you like better? Why?

Elements of a fairy tale:

  • Set in the past
  • Use some form or variation of “Once upon a time”
  • Fantasy or make-believe elements
  • Enchanted setting – can include forests, castles, water or kingdoms
  • Clearly defined good and evil characters
  • Magical elements
  • Characters take on unusual forms (giants, witches, dwarfs, talking animals)
  • Groups of 3 (objects, people or events)
  • Clearly defined problem, climax and resolution
  • Most often they have a happy ending
  • Teach a lesson that is important to the culture it came from

Common Themes of Fairy Tales:

  • Good character is rewarded.
  • Bad character is punished.
  • Poor characters get rich (or married).
  • Weak (bullied) characters get strong.
  • There is either revenge or forgiveness at the end.

Ginkgo nuts:

  • Traditionally, Chinese consumed ginkgo seeds to get relief from breathing problems since they consider them confer yang (warmth) effect. The kernels are also believed to ease asthma, bronchitis, and urinary tract ailments.
  • Ginkgo nutsare used in congee, and are often served at special occasions such as weddings and the Chinese New Year (as part of the vegetarian dish called Buddha’s delight).

Discuss the traits of real wolves.

  • Begin with a KWL chart.
  • These are possible references to learn about wolves:
  1. “Fun Wolf Facts” 
  2. Nonfiction Books for Emerging and Early Readers:
  • Wolves (National Geographic Readers Series) ByLaura Marsh
  • My First Animal Library, Wolves [Bullfrog books]
  • Gray Wolves by Mary Meinking
  • Wild, Wild Wolves (Step into Reading Book Series: A Step 3 Book) byJoyce Milton

Catholic Resources:

CCC 2200 Observing the fourth commandment brings its reward: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the LORD your God gives you.”Respecting this commandment provides, along with spiritual fruits, temporal fruits of peace and prosperity. Conversely, failure to observe it brings great harm to communities and to individuals.

 CCC 2216 Filial respect is shown by true docility and obedience. “My son,keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. . . . When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you.”A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.”

CCC 2217 As long as a child lives at home with his parents, the child should obey his parents in all that they ask of him when it is for his good or that of the family. “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”…….

  • “Children, so long as they remain under its yoke, are bound to obey. “

“Duties of Parents towards Their Children” 

“St. Francis and the Taming of the Wolf” is an article about  how Saint Francis of Assisi tamed the Wolf of Gubbio, “one of the great legends linked with the life of the saint.”

St. Herve – “His legend states that he had the power to cure animals and was accompanied by a domesticated wolf. According to a legend, this wolf had devoured the ox or donkey Hervé used in plowing. Hervé then preached a sermon that was so eloquent that the wolf penitentially begged to be allowed to serve in the ox’s stead. Hervé’s wolf pulled the plow from that day on.”



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