The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler is a magical story that no childhood should be without. This journey of a mouse through a deep, dark wood captures the imagination and now means that every time we walk through woodland we all keep our eyes peeled for the illusive Gruffalo. The little mouse shows that even a small animal can outwit predators and a fantastical creature in order to have some peace and quiet to enjoy a delicious snack. It is the story of a victorious underdog, or should that be undermouse?
A mouse took a stroll through a deep dark wood.
On his walk, the mouse meets a fox. The fox definitely wants mouse for lunch. Some quick thinking and a bit of confidence helps the mouse to conjure a terrible creature in the fox’s mind. This creature has terrible tusks, claws and teeth. Added to that, the creature loves roasted fox. This is enough to scare the fox away and the mouse journeys on. The name of that creature? A Gruffalo!
The woods are a dangerous place for a little mouse and it isn’t long before an owl has marked the mouse out for his tea. The mouse makes full use of his new invention and describes the terrifying Gruffalo to the owl. This time the creature has knobbly knees, turned-out toes and a poisonous wart on the end of his nose. The owl doesn’t want to hang around and meet this menacing Gruffalo and once again the mouse is left alone to continue on his way.
The poor mouse doesn’t get far before he is interrupted again. This time a hungry snake would love to have a mouse-shaped feast. The mouse deploys another gruesome description of a creature with orange eyes, a black tongue and with purple prickles all over his back. The snake doesn’t like the sound of the Gruffalo and quickly slithers off.
The mouse is suddenly stopped in his tracks by a… Gruffalo!
The Gruffalo has a healthy appetite for the mouse too but the mouse will not be defeated. He manages to persuade the Gruffalo that he is, in fact, the scariest creature in the wood. He wants to prove it to the Gruffalo and asks him to follow him back through the woods. The snake, owl and fox are terrified of the Gruffalo but the mouse manages to trick the Gruffalo into thinking that it is actually the mouse that they are running from. Eventually the Gruffalo flees before the mouse can make him into a crumble! The mouse finally has the woods to himself and he sits down to enjoy a delicious nut.
The story is a fantastic tale and the sequence is easy to remember so that even very young children can delight in remembering what comes next.
You could use the story to talk about animals and habitats as the fox lives underground, the owl in the treetop and the snake in a log pile house. You could also use the story to talk about which animals are frightened, who they are frightened of and why.
It is interesting to explore the fact that the Gruffalo (big, powerful and strong) is still able to be frightened and even frightened of a small thing and that is ok. Even big brothers or sisters, Mummies and Daddies can be frightened sometimes and sharing that fear or talking about it with someone can help - perhaps if the Gruffalo had a friend to walk with then they could have discussed the fear of the mouse and the end of the story might have been very different.
You can even explore language, have some fun and change things around to show your hold the impact just switching a few words can have. What would the Gruffalo look like if he had purple eyes, yellow eyes, grey spikes all over his tail?
You might also think about the fact that the mouse is triumphant due to his own quick mind and intelligence and he doesn’t need violence or shouting to get himself out of a sticky situation.
Here are some ideas or questions that you might want to use to start a discussion in your family. You know your family and which questions they are ready to tackle now and which can be left for another day:
- Why does the fox want the mouse to come to his house for lunch?
- Why does the fox run away instead of eating the mouse?
- Do you think that the fox, owl and snake are afraid of the Gruffalo?
- If everyone is afraid of the Gruffalo, why does the Gruffalo run away from the mouse?
- Are you surprised that a creature as big and powerful as the Gruffalo can be scared?
- When you are scared what can you do to help deal with your fear?
- Does talking about something that you are frightened of, or about, help you to feel better?
- Is the mouse really be the scariest creature in the wood?
- If you had to make up a fantastical creature to scare someone, or something away, what would it look like?
- Who, or what would you like your creature to scare away?
Crafts and activities for kids
The Gruffalo is a brilliantly crafted story and children can pick up the order of the encounters with each animal very quickly. Learning to put together and remember a sequence is an important skill and helps children to develop their own abilities to tell stories and recount events. We made a Gruffalo Felt Board to play with and to retell the story.
To accompany your reading take a look at this video of Julia Donaldson talking about writing The Gruffalo and singing The Gruffalo Song.
- Read and Create The Gruffalo Felt Board
- The Gingerbread House Gruffalo Cupcakes
- The Imagination Tree Gruffalo Playdough
- The Fairy and the Frog Gruffalo Story Sack
- The Feverish Feltist Gruffalo Wooden Spoon Puppets
- Here Come The Girls Gruffalo Cardboard Tube Characters
- The Educators Spin On It Gruffalo Finger Puppets
- The Crafty Crow Moving Story Book
- Learning Parade Gruffalo Story Wheel
- Eats Amazing Gruffalo Snack
- Mummy Mishaps Gruffalo Party Treats
- Domestic Bliss NZ Gruffalo Shadow Puppet Theatre
What have you been reading this week?