W 2000 Blue Peter Book Awards: The Best Book to Read Aloud
Julia Donaldson teaches English and lives in Glasgow. Over the last two decades she has had many books published and her work has been performed on programmes such as PLAYSCHOOL and PLAYDAYS. She has written for BBC radio, the stage and record, and runs drama and music workshops for children. Axel Scheffler has had books published in over a dozen countries and is famous for his depiction of animals. He has illustrated several picture and board books for Macmillan, including TALES FROM ACORN WOOD, THE BEDTIME BEAR. Born in Hamburg, he now lives in London.
PreS-Gr 3-To save himself from being eaten by a fox, an owl, and a snake, an enterprising mouse declares that he is having lunch with a monster whose favorite food just happens to be the animal who is at that moment threatening him. With each telling, the gruffalo becomes more menacing until all of the rodent's tormentors leave him unharmed. The mouse scoffs at them, for everyone knows "There's no such thing as a gruffal...." But a turn of the page reveals-you guessed it-a gruffalo, that thinks the mouse will "...taste good on a slice of bread." Undaunted, the rodent devises a plan to frighten the monster off. Young readers will love the humor in this preposterous story of a trick that backfires and the way the protagonist talks himself out of his difficulties. Best of all, they will relish being in on the joke as they join in the reading of the delightfully repetitious rhyming text. Scheffler's cartoonlike illustrations, rendered in watercolor, colored pencils, and ink, are large and well paced. Facial expressions contrast the animals' alarm with the jaunty nonchalance of the mouse. The double-page spread that reveals the gruffalo-terrible claws, black tongue, poisonous wart, purple prickles, and all-is just scary enough to tickle but not frighten youngsters. Serve this one for a rollicking good time.-Marianne Saccardi, Norwalk Community-Technical College, CT Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
The eponymous character introduced by this British team owes a large debt to Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. When Mouse meets Fox in the "deep dark wood," he invents a story about the gruffalo, described very much like Sendak's fearsome quartet of wild thingsÄ"He has terrible tusks, and terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws." The gullible fox runs away when Mouse tells him that the gruffalo's favorite food is roasted fox. "Silly old Fox!" says Mouse, "Doesn't he know?/ There's no such thing as a gruffalo!" Owl and Snake follow suit until, with a turn of the page, Mouse runs into the creature he has imagined. Quick-thinking Mouse then tells the monster, "I'm the scariest creature in this deep dark wood./ Just walk behind me and soon you'll see,/ Everyone for miles is afraid of me." Fox, Owl and Snake appear to be terrified of the tiny mouse, but readers can plainly see the real object of their fears. By story's end, the gruffalo flees, and Mouse enjoys his nut lunch in peace. Despite the derivative plot line, debut author Donaldson manipulates the repetitive language and rhymes to good advantage, supplying her story with plenty of scary-but-not-too-scary moments. Scheffler's gruffalo may seem a goofy hybrid of Max's wild things, but his cartoonlike illustrations build suspense via spot-art previews of the monster's orange eyes, black tongue and purple prickles until the monster's appearance in full. Ages 4-8. (June) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.