Newest Review: ... in that time, The Gruffalo remains my favourite. I just think the story is so clever and of course, like all her books, its so nicel... more
A mouse took a walk ...
The Gruffalo - Julia Donaldson
Member Name: deedee610
The Gruffalo - Julia Donaldson
Advantages: magical; well written; beautifully illustrated
Disadvantages: not for very young children
Price: £6.99 (£4.19 on Amazon)
Length: 32 pages
I'm constantly looking out for different books for my 3 year old daughter and, although The Gruffalo's been on my radar for years (how could it not be!), I've avoided it until now. We have lots of other Julia Donaldson books, but I thought The Gruffalo might be a tad scary for a younger child. Now she's 3 though, I thought it was a good time to introduce her to him - and she loves the book.
So what is a Gruffalo? Well didn't you know?! 'He has terrible tusks, and terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws." And, really, he's just a figment of a clever mouse's imagination. Or is he? For this story begins with a mouse taking a walk through a 'deep, dark wood' where he encounters a number of other critters (an owl, a snake and a fox) who want to eat him. However, he puts them off by telling them he's going to be meeting a fearsome creature - a Gruffalo - for lunch and, each time, he embellishes the details of this beast! I won't say much more - if you don't know they whole story, it's a nice surprise to read it with your child.
For me, although the book's called The Gruffalo, the real star of the show is the mouse. He is super-cute and very smart. Personally, I find the Gruffalo just - ugly. I wouldn't be encouraged by all the merchandising spin-off to buy any toys relating specifically to him. Give me the rodent any day!
As with all children's books, credit can't just go to the writer - there are pictures too! And as most parents will know. Axel Scheffler is a hugely talented illustrator. I sometimes wonder if certain books wouldn't do as well if it weren't for the fact a writer has been paired with a certain illustrator. In the case of Julia Donaldson though, her prose is simply delightful - and, together with Scheffler, pure magic pours out of the pages. There are many books that I'm ho-hum about reading (and yet others I dread reading - although I try to put on a good show with all of them for the sake of my daughter. After all, she's the main critic!). But I never get bored of Julia Donaldson's writing (nor of Scheffler's illustrations). I understand it's more difficult for would-be writers to get children's books published if they rhyme (something to do with them not translating, hence less chance to sell them in abroad). However, as a mum, I think these are often the best books to read. They teach children to love the flow and pace of language. There is a 'beat' to the story - something that almost borders on the musical. It is through rhyme, I think, that children can first discover a true love of language - how words interact with each other and how inflection can make a difference to meaning. Julia Donaldson gets this right every time. I'd go so far as to put her up there with the likes of Dr. Seuss.
The story itself might take some explaining to a younger reader (there's a twist in it) but this is the sort of book that will grow with a child - and I don't doubt, when that child is an adult, this will be one of the childhood books that lives in their memory and still resonates with them.
On a different - but related note - there is also an utterly enchanting short film of The Gruffalo. It's about 25 minutes long and the animation (and music) is magical. It 'stars' big-names such as Helena Bonham Carter, Rob Brydon and James Corden and brings the book to life without detracting from it in any way (you can find it on Youtube if you type in Gruffalo movie - it has Spanish subtitles for some reason (proving some rhyming books do still make it out into the wider world!)). And I think it's testament to the story that my husband and I often quote to each other, '... the mouse found a nut. And the nut was GOOD.' Read it and you'll know what I mean!
Summary: An enchanting tale for children (and adults too!)