In it a mouse tries to take a stroll through the deep, dark wood but keeps getting interrupted by animals–a fox, owl, and snake–who invite him home for a meal (with the mouse being the meal). To get away from each of them, the mouse says he already has plans to eat with an imaginary beast, the gruffalo. Unfortunately the gruffalo isn’t imaginary and the mouse is his favorite food. But the clever mouse is able to trick the gruffalo just like he tricked the other animals.
While the premise might sound frightening, the story really isn’t scary. Donaldson handles it all with such humor. And the book is very lyrical with a great rhythm to it. The girls love it and we love doing all the different voices. (In honor of Donaldson’s homeland and Ed’s trip, I give the mouse a British accent).
We have also really enjoyed the sequel, The Gruffalo’s Child. It is especially hilarious if you are familiar with the first book because this time the story follows the gruffalo’s child who is afraid of the big, bad mouse. The fox, owl, and snake all make an appearance again and the mouse uses a different trick this time on the baby gruffalo.
And since we are so obsessed with The Gruffalo we also have the animated movie, which I highly recommend (after you’ve read the book a few hundred times, of course). Helena Bonham Carter and Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid from Harry Potter) are in it. It adds on the story but really captures the spirit and uses some of the same repetition in the book. I really like how you can really tell that the mouse is making up the description of the gruffalo on the spot.
Finally, if your children are like mine and are playing hide’n’seek with imaginary gruffalos, you might want to check out the official website with coloring pages, crafts, recipes, and info about other books by Julia Donaldson. It’s aptly named www.gruffalo.com.