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Author: Julia Donaldson (website)
Illustrator: Axel Scheffler
Publisher: Macmillan Children's
Format: Paperback, also available in Hardcover and Board Book
Age Range: Toddler, Preschooler, Early Reader
Kid Love Factor: 5/5
Adult Sanity Factor: 4/5
The Gruffalo starts with your average, everyday, (talking) mouse wandering through a forest. Our intrepid mouse meets up with a fox, an owl, and a snake, all of them unsurprisingly wanting to eat said mouse. Luckily, he's an expert bluffer (and has a set of big brass ones) and convinces each animal in turn that he's about to meet up with a big, scary, (imaginary) friend of his -- the Gruffalo.
He has knobbly knees,
and turned out toes,
and a poisonous wart on the end of his nose.
Silly old owl. Doesn't he know?
There's no such thing as a Gruffalo.
Once the mouse rids himself of his realistic predators, he runs into none other than the Gruffalo himself. The Gruffalo is of like mind with Fox, Owl, and Snake and thinks the mouse would make for a tasty lunch. The startled mouse proves even quicker at thinking on his feet than he was previously (he really should give lessons to Sylvester) and not only convinces the Gruffalo not to eat him, but sends the monster fleeing as well as ensuring the others will never bother him again.
Donaldson and Scheffler have scored another hit in our house (see our The Snail and the Whale review). Boo is in love. He loves the rhyme and rhythm. He loves the sing-song description. He loves yelling "Guffawo!" He loves the colourful illustrations. He loves making me (or Daddy) read it five times in a row.
I'm also really fond. I'm quite anal retentive when it comes to metre in stories, and I have no complaints here. The story is clever and fun, though I must admit it does start to get wearisome during the fourth repetition within fifteen minutes. "Mama read Guffawo adain?" is a popular refrain.
Autism Spectrum Bonus: There are lots of repeating and near-repeating phrases that can encourage vocalization if you pause once your child is familiar with the story. The description of the various Gruffalo features can be good not only for teaching body parts but also for pointing. Boo now insists on
For older kids, there's plenty to discuss. Mouse is small and incapable of fighting his bullies/predators physically, at least not with a positive outcome for him. Instead, Mouse uses his brain and bluffs (okay, he outright lies) his way through all the dangerous situations he finds himself in. I can foresee excellent (and no doubt confusing) conversations on when lying is wrong and when it might be okay (e.g. Auntie Mavis does not need to know that in fact her butt does look fat in those pants, and the unknown person at the door should not be told that your parents aren't home, even when true) as well as how sometimes using your brain rather than your fists can get you out of bad situations. There's also the innuendo in the words of Fox, Owl, and Snake. None of them say they're going to eat Mouse. They simply invite him for a meal. Mouse is worldly enough to know that strangers bearing gifts/invites are not a good thing, a lesson that may be trickier to get across to many on the spectrum, but a very important one to learn.
Silly old, M. Doesn't he know?
There's no such thing as a Gruffalo!
The Gruffalo on Amazon.ca
The Gruffalo on Amazon.com