Themes: retelling, adventure, children fiction, initiation story
Side note: I’ve read this book in Spanish; as such, the quotes will be in Spanish, with a personal translation. Also, light spoilers ahead!
“A quien dices tu secreto, das tu libertad.” from Fernando de Rojas, “Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea”: To whom you tell your secret, you give your freedom
Caperucita en Manhattan is a retelling of the story of (Little) Red Riding Hood in which Sara Allen, the protagonist, has read all the classics for children. And because of that, she has nothing to do with the gullible RRH. In fact, Sara is one of the most interesting characters: she is creative, brave, intelligent and her imagination makes her stand out of the crowd. She does not look like her dull parents and the other (boring) children, represented with her neighbours’ kid, Rod.
Throughout the whole story, her point of view as a child is often brought face to face to the adult world but it often feels like her actions are more responsible than older characters’.
“Porque las letras y los dibujos eran hermanos de padre y madre: el padre el lápiz afilado y la madre la imaginación.” Because letters and drawings were siblings of father and mother: the father the sharp pen and the mother the imagination.
The story takes place in New York, between Manhattan, as the title suggests, and Brooklyn, where the protagonist lives with her family. Every Saturday, Sara and her mother, Vivian, go to bring a strawberry pie to Rebecca, the grandmother. The story borrows a lot from the original tale, but it is rearranged, and you can see some modification. The characters now have names to make them stand out and they often have different traits of character.
The grandmother is now energic and never ill, though her daughter tries to make her feel weak; the wolf is not an enemy and though he is not kind of heart, doing what he does for his own purpose he actually helps Sara.
END OF SPOILER
“Cómo sería posible que en una distancia tan corta como la que va del pelo a los pies pudieran darse tantas variaciones como para que no fuera posible confundir a uno de aquellos viajeros con otro?” How could it be possible that in such a short distance as from hair to feet there could be so many variations that it would not be possible to mistake one traveller for another?
I enjoyed this book as a big fan of retelling in general but also because it was the first book in Spanish that I finished so I might be biased. However, I still found certain parts that were not totally believable, such as Sara and Miss Lunatic’s encounter.
It felt weird because, as any time a kid meets a stranger, I was waiting for Miss Lunatic to be malicious, and to have bad intentions; at the same time, Sara’s still a child and as an overprotected one, she does not have all the sense of danger she should have. I expected her to be the wolf in this story, which was amplified with her name referring to the moon.
END OF SPOILER
“La gente siempre esta cambiado. Y cada persona es un mundo […] A mí me encanta que me cuenten cosas.” People are always changing. And each person is different […] I like when people tell me things.
To finish, I would like to talk about Carmen Martín Gaite a little: she was a famous author, and one important leading figure of Spanish literature of the 20th century. She was home-schooled when she was young and developed a great taste for history because of her father. She won a lot of prizes, was awarded Princess of Asturias for literature in 1988, and three of her works were even adapted into TV series or movie. Such an inspiring lady!
Keep dreaming, Lua ☾
CEM = Caperucita en Manhattan
RRH = Red Riding Hood