The Little Red Elf book cover image

The Little Red Elf

  • 795

By: Barbara Barbieri McGrath / Illustrated by: Rosalinde Bonnet

Once upon a time, there was a reindeer, a penguin, a hare, and a little red elf.

Everyone knows elves are industrious and always helping others. But the same cannot be said for reindeer who like to snooze in the straw, or penguins who like to relax in the bath, or hibernating hares. Still, when the Little Red Elf finds some pinecones, she asks for help planting them, watering them, and then decorating the tree that grows from them. Not surprisingly, her friends decline.

It isn’t difficult for the Little Red Elf to stay positive, but on Christmas Day, after she’s cleaned all by herself and prepared treats all by herself, young readers must wonder who will help her open all the presents under the beautiful tree.

Adorable illustrations by Rosalinde Bonnet are an abundance of cute and will put readers young and old in the proper holiday spirit.

Read an excerpt!

Look Inside the Book:

Author & Illustrator Bios:

Barbara Barbieri McGrath, author

Barbara Barbieri McGrath was a nursery school teacher before she dedicated herself to writing children's books full time. She is the author of The Little Red Elf, The Little Green Witch, and many bestselling math concept books. Barbara lives in Natick, Massachusetts.

Read more about Barbara.

Rosalinde Bonnet, illustrator

Rosalinde Bonnet is an accomplished artist who has illustrated many picture books in her native France. She made her American picture book debut with The Little Red Elf. Rosalinde lives in Versailles, France.

Read more about Rosalinde Bonnet.

Editorial Reviews:

The Horn Book

The little red elf is used to doing everything herself while her friends the reindeer, the penguin, and the hare laze around the workshop. It comes as no surprise that her cheerful requests for help preparing for Christmas are quickly dismissed. "'Who will help me put out milk and cookies?' 'Not I,' said the reindeer. 'Why bother saying yes now?' said the penguin. 'I'm allergic,' said the hare." On Christmas morning, however, everyone is more than eager to assist in opening presents. Bonnet's more-than-helpful illustrations give an extra-festive boost to McGrath's already spirited version of a familiar tale. Even at their cheekiest, the reindeer, penguin, and hare look friendly and cuddly. The little red elf's "most positive of attitudes" shines through in the text and art, but the pictures also hint that, like her predecessor, she's no chump. Speaking of whom, the little red hen herself makes a cameo appearance in the poetically just ending.

In the Know Mom

Once upon a time, there was a reindeer, a penguin, a hare, and a little red elf. I will be the first to admit the adorable cover of this book initially roped me in. A little red elf? How I want to gobble it up cute.

I will also be the first to admit I was a little weary of another Little Red Hen spoof, but this Christmas book is one to have in your collection for 24 Days of Christmas Books. The insanely cute illustrations that drew me into this book are by Rosalinde Bonnet, a very nice compliment to the sweet story.

The Little Red Elf by Barbara Barbieri McGrath is based around this rather unlikely group of friends. While the little red elf is fastidiously working her little red buns off in the workshop, her pals are snoozing and relaxing. One day while doing her daily tasks, the little red elf stumbles upon a few pinecones. Who will help her plant these pinecones? You know how the story goes — “not I,” says each friend. And so she plants a pinecone herself.

This cheery elf can not be deterred and she takes care of the tree alone throughout it’s stages of growth until it is time to bring it into the workshop. She lugs it in and decorates it, the only thing her friends can offer is criticism. And so goes life for the little red elf. But don’t you know, as soon as the morning comes to open all the presents around her beautiful pine tree, all of the friends are ready to help open them. Typical. Here is a nice chance to talk about selfishness and the consequences of bad behavior. The ending threw my daughter for a loop and I had to explain it to her as it is a play on The Little Red Hen aspect, but all in all, she loved it. Her shocked face at the actions of the friends was enough to tell me the story was sinking in.

This is certainly a book to read to the kids this Christmas, a great one for Santa to bring as well. With focus on the little red elf’s work ethic in opposition to her friends’ pure laziness, it is a book that will have your kids frustrated! Maybe they will even offer to help you with your daily tasks. Crazier things have happened. The story is solid and Bonnet’s illustrations are beyond perfect. Must find something else she has illustrated that isn’t in French! Purchase The Little Red Elf for your 24 Days of Christmas Books collection.

Kirkus Reviews

A cute little elf in red overalls and stocking cap is an efficient worker who gets everything done herself including making toys for Santa. She lives with her friends—a reindeer, a penguin and a hare—but they prefer to sleep or play rather than help with household talks. When the little red elf finds a pine cone and plants it the plot then follows the structure of "The Little Red Hen." The little elf does all the preparations for Christmas herself while her friends lie around, but then they want to open all the presents on Christmas morning. In a clever twist, the many presents for the lazy ones are all stuffed little-red-hen toys. Bonnet's illustrations are bright and cheerful, with a sweet elf and comical creatures as the non-helpers.

Publishers Weekly

McGrath recasts the Little Red Hen folktale in a holiday setting. A hardworking elf lives at a North Pole workshop with three lazy but likable toys: a reindeer, rabbit and penguin. The elf asks for help growing and decorating a pine tree along with other Christmas activities, but all three toys decline. Finally, the elf has a meltdown. Readers will giggle at the ne'er-do-well toys in Bonnet's sweetly amusing acrylic and pen illustrations (the reindeer floats Christmas ornaments in the tub), but the punch line the gifts under the tree are all red hens may require explanation.

School Library Journal

The little red elf has a bunch of lazy housemates a reindeer, a penguin, and a hare who won t help out in the toy workshop or assist her in planting and caring for a little pine tree. When the tree is grown, she digs it up, decorates it, and bakes cookies. The next morning, she asks, Who will help me open the presents? Only then do the housemates volunteer. In a sly wink from Santa, the presents turn out to be toy Little Red Hens. This sweet version is simply told but includes plenty of funny asides (Well, I love being busy! the little red elf exclaims after yet another failed attempt to get help). The acrylic and ballpoint-pen illustrations are full of childlike humor, depicting cute North Pole characters who look like toys themselves. This is that rare beast an endearing holiday book without a hint of treacle. –Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library


ISBN: 978-1-58089-237-7

ISBN: 978-1-58089-236-0

E-book PDF
ISBN: 978-1-60734-067-6

For information about purchasing E-books, click here.

Ages: 3-6
Page count: 32
9 x 9

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The Little Green Witch
Jingle Bells
The Last Straw