Each month — as part of the DFF Book Club — I present a book for your consideration. (The DFF stands for David Fisher’s Family — after all, I am writing on behalf of my family, ahem.)

The DFF Book Club

This month’s title of choice is The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson with illustrations by Axel Scheffler. Last month I didn’t know about this book. It’s not one that I grew up with, it’s not something I found in an op shop, and in fact, I don’t actually own a copy (yet).

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

So what is it about this book that has won my heart in less than a month?

I was first introduced to The Gruffalo by our public library system. In scheduling the girls’ activities, I signed them up for today’s Gruffalo party, hosted at our local library. It was a free event, and I simply thought it would provide an afternoon’s entertainment in the middle of the week.

Aisha, 5yo, May 2010
At our Gruffalo party, the girls cut out and coloured Gruffalo masks.

In preparation for today’s event and so that the girls would understand what the party was about, I decided to check out the book and read it to them in advance. I also borrowed Donaldson’s The Gruffalo Song and other songs CD and book kit.

And we started listening to the songs and reading the book. Again and again. And again.

It wasn’t a bad story — a mouse walks through a forest, meets some bad characters and uses his wits to make up his friend the “Gruffalo” so he doesn’t get eaten. Except that the Gruffalo turns out to be real — and he wants to eat the mouse too!

But the clever, little mouse wins (of course).

The book is written in rhyme. It’s repetitive. There are some great (very British) words and lots of alliteration thrown in, making it fun to read. I love it when the Gruffalo says, “Astounding.” It’s the sort of book that you could easily memorise. Or act out. Or both. How about turning it into a play? (Already been done.)

Really, I must be living under a rock. Either that, or I don’t get out enough. Because I had never heard of The Gruffalo before. It turns out that this book is quite a worldwide sensation (or maybe that’s just propaganda). The BBC even made it into a 30-minute animation, sticking very closely to the book’s script.

The song on the CD enhanced our enjoyment of the book. Julia Donaldson sings her own songs, and her voice isn’t crash hot, but it’s passable. My estimation for her has also risen since I’ve seen some over her videos. She sings and performs well for the pre-school-aged crowd, and doesn’t appear to mind the losing her dignity for the sake of the audience.

I really hate the over-marketing that cheapens a good book, but in this case I’ve been delighted with the song and the film that came from the story. I’d recommend both highly with the book.

And because I’m still not sure that it really is that well-known, I’ve hunted the best Youtube videos so you can see The Gruffalo for yourself!

Here’s the book being read aloud:

Julia talking about The Gruffalo:

Julia’s Guffalo song, performed with her husband:

Interview with Axel Scheffler, the illustrator of The Gruffalo:

Trailer for the BBC production:

Since 2010 is the year that I can’t buy anything online without running it past David (and I don’t think he’ll agree to another children’s book), I’ll be looking out for a copy of The Gruffalo in the op shops from now on. But you can get your very own copy from The Book Depository through this link.