Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Little Red Pen

When I was a kid the story of The Little Red Hen didn't appeal to me all that much. I mean, why couldn't the chicken just make the bread by herself? Why drag in Pig, Duck and Cat? Then I became a mom. Suddenly the story resonated.

The Little Red Pen takes a fresh look at this well-known nursery tale, substituting a ballpoint pen for the put-upon hen and office supplies for the barnyard animals.  Little Red Pen is faced with a pile of papers to grade, and when she asks for a little help, she finds Stapler, Scissors, Pencil, Eraser, Pushpin, and Highlighter hiding in the desk drawer. Unlike the barnyard animals, the Desktop Brigade has a reason for not helping. They fear wearing themselves out and being tossed into "The Pit of No Return," otherwise known as the trash.

Little Red Pen bravely carries on by herself, marking papers long into the night until, too tired to continue, she rolls off the desk and falls into the pit. When the others learn of her fate, they band together and do their best to rescue their friend. With the help of several more desk mates, Paper Clip Box, Ruler, and Yardstick, as well as the class hamster, Tank, the gang pulls Little Red Pen (and some others who have fallen in during the rescue attempt) out of the trash and back onto the desk. Then they finish up grading and organizing the papers, no longer afraid of hard work.

The illustrations are the best part of this picture book, with the desktop scenes just bursting with action. Each office supply has its own personality. Little Red Pen is brisk and no-nonsense with her horn-rimmed glasses. Pushpin is a sassy Latina named Senorita Chincheta, while  Eraser is constantly forgetting things as his rubber head shrinks. Even each character's typeface is unique. And the book's message--that we must work together to survive--isn't hammered home, but conveyed in a humorous, light-hearted way. Children are sure to enjoy this rollicking tale. But why should they have all the fun? Read it yourself; it's bound to resonate with anyone who's ever faced a mountain of paperwork.

The Little Red Pen
by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel
illustrated by Janet Stevens
Harcourt Children's Books 56 pages
Published: April 2011


  1. Tooooo funny on your kid thoughts on the book. Oh man, I wonder how many of the wee's think exactly the same thing when I'm telling that story. And you know now I have to ask them, lol.

    Thanks for the heads up on this book, will for sure seek it out.

  2. I haven't seen this one yet, but I'll be sure to look for it. I love their books, especially Tops and Bottoms, which I periodically use for story time for school age kids.