We have several children’s books written by Julia Donaldson, and we enjoy them all. However, there are two that get read over and over and over in our house, and The Gruffalo is one of them (I’ll post a review of the other one in the future).
The Gruffalo is a fun book about a mouse who shrewdly outsmarts all of the animals who want to eat him. As the mouse takes a walk through the woods, he encounters a fox, an owl, and a snake. During these three parallel encounters, he frightens each of the animals away by describing (in a not-too-scary way, though this whole book hints at the predator/prey relationship) the horrible features of a monster he made up and called the Gruffalo.
“Doesn’t he know?” asks the mouse, “There’s no such thing as a Gruffalo.” Or is there? When the sprightly mouse encounters a Gruffalo himself, his wits are tested again. As he works to outwit the Gruffalo, he encounters each of the three initial predators once more in a second set of parallel encounters. In the end, our hero calmly thwarts their plans and comes out victorious. The way the mouse celebrates his victory is quiet and fitting, bringing him out of the realm of the monster and back into his quiet domain in the deep dark woods.
The whole captivating tale is told in Donaldson’s cute and clever rhymes. Their rhythm makes the book easy to read, and the repetition makes it simple for young children to follow along. The story is imaginative, funny, and exciting enough to engage kids and adults alike.
In The Gruffalo, the prey comes out victorious over his predators by bravely outwitting them. The cunning mouse does not run away. He thinks, he responds, and his ingenuity makes him triumphant. It’s a great example of the small overcoming the mighty.
Axel Scheffler’s delightful illustrations bring this tale to life, though not in a frightening way. His lively depictions of the various animals bring a light-hearted humor to the tale, with colorful drawings that are a bit too silly to really be upsetting.
In short, this is a fun, suspenseful book that makes a great read aloud story. It’s enjoyable for both children and grown-ups, and it still makes my two boys (ages 6 and 2) laugh even as we read it again and again. We have a copy of our own, and have given several copies away as gifts. If you’re looking for a book for your favorite young person, this would be a good choice.
You can find a copy of The Gruffalo HERE.
Have you read The Gruffalo before? Do you and your kids enjoy this book?