The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi
Perhaps “fractured fairy tale” isn’t the most inviting descriptor, but the growing genre of parodied, subverted new versions of familiar stories can be fabulously enticing, not to mention downright inventive and – oxymoronic as it sounds – incredibly original.
Thanks to Canada’s marvelous indie Kids Can Press, author/artist Akiko Miyakoshi, an award-winning children’s book creator in her native Japan, makes her translated-into-English debut here with a fractured tale. Her version of Little Red Riding Hood finds herself at a kinder Alice-in-Wonderland-sort of magical gathering, rendered in mostly soft black-and-white drawings with just enough swaths of color thoughtfully added throughout.
Kiyakoshi’s ‘Little Red’ is Kikko, who wakes one morning to “a winter wonderland.” Her father leaves the house early to go shovel Grandma’s walk, but forgets to take the pie Kikko’s mother has prepared. Kikko volunteers to be the sweet messenger, and dons her red mittens and red hat (which match her red skirt). In her dash to the other side of the woods, she tumbles and crushes the pie box but she manages not to cry, determined to catch up to her father who is just about to disappear from her sight.
Following the coated figure ahead, however, takes her to a house she’s never seen; when she peeks in a window, she realizes that she’s been tracking someone else entirely. “‘Are you here for the tea party?’” she’s asked by a stranger. Before Kikko can answer, she’s gently led inside, and – after a moment of shock and surprise by all the guests, including and especially Kikko – welcomed with warmth, kindness, and encouragement. What a story she’ll have to tell Grandma!
With such an enthusiastic, genial guest list, Miyakoshi’s tea party proves to be a toothsome, delectable enchantment – complete with enticing pie of every variety. Pastries make the party, right? Wouldn’t we all like a seat at this tempting table?
Published: 2010 (Japan), 2015 (United States)