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The Little Red Elf    by Barbara Barbieri McGrath & Rosalinde Bonnet order for
Little Red Elf
by Barbara Barbieri McGrath
Order:  USA  Can
Charlesbridge, 2009 (2009)
* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

This story may sound familiar because it is a clever retelling of The Little Red Hen. In this instance a little red elf shares a large house and workshop with a reindeer, penguin and hare. All the work seems to fall onto the elf's shoulders because her housemates can't be bothered whenever she asks for help.

One day the little red elf stumbles upon some pine cones. 'Who will help me plant these pine cones?' she asks. As usual, back comes a chorus of, 'Not I!' Over time, with no help from her friends, the elf cares for the trees that grow from the pine cones she carefully planted.

Eventually she cuts down a tree to decorate for Christmas. And, as usual, hare, reindeer and penguin are not interested in helping her. In fact, they can't even be bothered to put out milk and cookies for Santa.

On Christmas morning a huge pile of presents sits under the tree. When the little red elf says, 'Who will help me open the presents?', the lazy trio chimes in together that they'd be only too happy to help her now.

But, there's a surprise awaiting her friends. Inside the gaily wrapped boxes are the perfect gifts for these less than cooperative companions who could never seem to lend a helping hand.

Although you may have to explain the significance of the surprises in the gift boxes, this is a story with a simple message. Children ages two and older should be able to understand what the main issue is in The Little Red Elf. Heaven knows that helping others is always a good idea any time of the year, but around the holidays it really makes a lot of sense to answer a request for 'Who will help me?' with a rousing 'I will!'

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