In a re-imagining of Little Red Riding Hood, a young boy must deliver a basket of food to his sick grandma. His mother advises the boy (who's only items or red clothing are his shoes...and eventually a coat) to avoid going in the forest.
The boy, in the hopes of being back more quickly to greet his father who is missing, disobeys and takes the path through the forest. There he meets many upset characters, that many readers will recognize from some fairy tales. (But on that note, if a child isn't familiar with Western fairy tales, they may feel left out during a read aloud)
Browne's artwork in Into the Forest is reminiscent of Chris Van Allsburg's art. But Browne makes very interesting use of color, keeping the forest and many of the colors in black and white, while the narrator is in color.
This probably won't be a problem for most children, but as I was reading, I couldn't get the song "Into the Woods" from the titled musical out of my head. And people who are familiar with the musical probably won't be able to help noticing the parallels between the drama and this picturebook.
Students reading or listening to this book can have fun guessing the various fairy tale characters that the narrator meets in the forest. Another option would be to share this with a read aloud of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, or a screening of the movie. There are many elements of the classic that Into the Forest makes use of.
A great topic for discussion would be the use of color and black and white. Who is in color, who isn't and why?
To encourage students to write their own stories, a teacher could present an assignment of having the students create their own stories of a journey.
Quotes of Note:
"One night I was wakened by a terrible sound."
"Dad wasn't there. I asked Mom when he was coming back, but she didn't seem to know."
"The next day Mom asked me to take a cake to Grandma, who was not feeling well."
"But that day, for the first time, I chose the quick way. I wanted to be home in case Dad came back."