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The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza by Philemon Sturges Children's Book Review

Carolyn loves writing about children's literature for library, preschool, or home settings. She has a BA in English Lit from BYU.

The Little Red Hen by Philemon Sturges, Illustrated by Amy Walrod

The Little Red Hen by Philemon Sturges, Illustrated by Amy Walrod

The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza by Philemon Sturges and Amy Walrod is a modernized retelling of the classic Little Red Hen folktale. In the classic story, Little Red Hen uses persistence and hard work to harvest wheat, mill flour, and eventually bake a loaf of bread for her little chicks. In the classic story, Little Red Hen asks her animal friends to help do the chores required to make the tasty loaf of bread. The lazy friends repeatedly refuse to help, so she is left to do the work on her own. At the end of the classic version of the story, Little Red Hen refuses to share the bread she has made, since it's only fair that she did all the work.

Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza is a clever re-staging of the original story that moves the Little Red Hen off of the farm and into a city neighborhood, complete with a beatnik buddy. Sturgis and Walrod depict the Little Red Hen making a pizza instead of bread. And what child isn't fascinated by making homemade pizza? The language of this version retains the charm of the original story, with repetitive refusals of her lazy friends to work, but introduces bold and colorful artwork with an infusion of humor that adults will appreciate.

It is the ending that truly sets this new version of the story apart from the old version—Instead of giving her lazy friends a just consequence for not helping her bake, Little Red Hen allows her friends to share in the meal. The focus is on forgiveness, instead of fairness. Some folks will balk at the complete change of this story whose moral is "You reap what you sow," but I think it is a fun read, especially in contrast to the original tale.


  • Persistence
  • Hard Work
  • Resourcefulness
  • Fairness
  • Forgiveness
  • Kindness
  • Animals
  • Cooking
  • Pizza


Reading Readiness With This Book

Recommended for group reading: Ages 5 and up

Toddlers: In a group setting, this longer story is not recommended for the under 4 crowd, who generally will not sit still for a reading of a book this length.

Preschoolers will enjoy the story in the book, but not all of them will grasp the ethical message of forgiveness.

Elementary Ages The pictures and language are captivating and will hold their attention. If you read this book as a companion to a more traditional telling of the Little Red Hen story, this age group could begin a discussion about the difference between fairness and forgiveness.

Emergent Readers This is a great book to reintroduce to a child who is mastering learning to read. The repetitive words and phrases in the text makes it an appealing longer book for reading aloud.

Little Red Hen Preschool Lesson Plan

Sample Lesson

As a former volunteer at my local public library, I used this book as the central reading for a story hour on several different occasions.

Following are suggestions for use in a story hour or preschool circle time setting. My story hours eventually grew quite large, and we had to eliminate some of the smaller-group activities.

Music and movement. For groups smaller than 12 kids. If your group is larger, you may wish to adapt to using more finger plays and fewer movement-oriented activities.

  • Always start your story hour with the same song. This helps focus children and prepare them to listen. Our song was "If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands"
  • Sing "Old McDonald Had a Farm" highlighting the animals from the story: A chicken, dog, duck, cat.

Transition: Ask the children Do you like to eat pizza? What is your favorite topping to put on pizza?

Note: Transition periods are key during a story hour or group reading time. If your children are under age 4, it's a good idea to refocus the kid's attention quickly without dragging out the transitions.

(Involved) Prepare a laminated pizza by drawing a simple circle and coloring it yellow. Use ruler to draw in pizza slices. Using simple shapes represent toppings. Red circles for pepperoni, black circles for olives, green shapes for green peppers, and so on. Don't get too elaborate. Show the children a your pizza and ask them to help you make a pizza. Have the kids help you build a pizza with the shapes.

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This type of activity takes a lot of prep work, so be sure to make durable materials you can save to use later. A laminating machine or laminating sheets are useful, especially if you have a helper.


(Easy) Go through the book and point to the main characters. What sound does each animal make? Children can make the sounds as a group. Don't expect to call on them individually unless your group size is 7 or smaller.

Reading: Read The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza).

Music: End with a short song. It is a great idea to repeat the same 2 beginning and ending songs for 6 months or so. Singing the same thing each time will build familiarity, which children thrive on.

Craft: Make simple circles from construction paper or craft foam for each child, about 6 inches big. Give them colored paper or foam shapes to glue onto their own pizzas.


If you are incredibly ambitious, you could make English muffin pizzas. And before you laugh incredulously, I actually did this activity twice with my story time group. You would need access to a cooking source, such as a microwave or oven, for this activity, which makes it more appropriate for a small home preschool environment. Make sure you have lots of parent helpers if you cook with young children.

Consider these additional titles for reading with The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza.

  • Souperchicken by Jane and Herm Auch. This superbly funny book with a peppy poultry heroine promotes reading as a beneficial and even life-saving activity. Young readers will laugh all the way to the funny farm with this silly story.
  • The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah by Leslie Kimmelman. Another Little Red Hen adaptation, this one has a Jewish twist, and serves as an excellent and respectful introduction to Jewish culture, including a heroine that is a real mensch. Please read my complete review of this excellent story by clicking on the title.

© 2008 Carolyn Augustine


Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on January 18, 2019:

It is one of my favorites. The beatnik character might have been an inspiration for Pete the Cat, who knows?

Kara Skinner from Maine on October 02, 2018:

Wow, this sounds like such a cute story. I loved The Little Red Hen when I was younger, and this sounds like an excellent modernized version.

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on August 28, 2009:

I'm sorry, I don't know!

P Morgan on August 28, 2009:

Wow, any relation to the Little Sturges Biker Rally, I wonder....?

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on March 28, 2008:

What do you think about the way the author recast the ending of this story? How have your children liked this book?

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