Book Review: The Gruffalo

But who is this creature with terrible claws and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws? He has knobbly knees and turned out toes, and a poisonous wart at the end of his nose.  His eyes are orange, his tongue is black, he has purple prickles all over his back.

Mon Cœur (MC) received this sweet little gem of a book for Christmas. After reading it a few times at bedtime, I wondered if it was a little too frightening for right before wishing her “sweet dreams.”

Although Gruffalo’s quite a beast, she is not easily scared away. She continues to choose this book among her top three every evening. Chouchou and I love this book, too, and happily read it to her with our most monstrous voices.

Three reasons we love The Gruffalo

1. Sing-song rhyming and repetition: The author, Julia Donaldson, has a gift with words. When I read it, it’s like the words are dancing across the page, spinning the story of the mouse and Gruffalo. She weaves animals, forest settings, and food dishes together to make silly rhymes. For example: “Where are you meeting him?” ” Here by these rocks, and his favorite food is roasted fox.”

In addition, I love the repetition of words and phrases. MC is at a stage now that she is able to figure our patterns of repetition and sing along with songs or “read” along in books. I enjoy any book that has repetitive, predictable phrasing so that she may participate in the reading with us.

2. Survival of the wittiest mouse: Poor mouse is just looking for a bite to eat, when three different predators try to “invite” him to their home for consumption. Mouse is so smart, he makes up the beastliest beast to scare each animal off, but then he realizes this monster of his imagination truly exists!  So then he has to outwit the Gruffalo, and in the end, that intelligent little mouse scares away any would-be predators and gets his snack.

3.  The formatting of the text: It may seem minor, or even silly, but I really love when authors differentiate between speakers. Yes, yes, they use quotation marks, of course. It just makes for an easier read and better flow when there is a little something extra. Donaldson uses italics to help the banter between animals flow back and forth.

The format of the text and images on the pages also reflects the predictable and repetitive phrasing I had mentioned earlier. It makes for an enjoyable reading experience, no matter how many times we read it.

I was surprised to learn that the Gruffalo is celebrating his 20th anniversary this year. I knew he was after my childhood, but I imagined he was younger than 20. There is an official Gruffalo website with resources, activities, and games that are tied to one of Donaldson’s many books. I found finger puppets for our next read, and a recipe for Gruffalo Crumble. Hmm, I was thinking a sweet crumble like apple or peach…but I suppose Gruffalo are saltier, as the recipe suggests. MC and I may still give it a go and we’ll keep you posted.


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