Reviewed by Angela Marie
What do Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Shirley Henderson, John Hurt, James Corden, Tom Wilkinson and Rob Brydon have in common? Yes, they are all actors and this prominent cast voice the characters of the wonderful The Gruffalo’s Child film which first aired Christmas Day, 2011. This is the star-pulling power of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. But to the book, because something special happens with a book that can be cherished, and it is three little words. Read it again.
One snowy night when the Gruffalo snored
The Gruffalo's Child was feeling bored.
The Gruffalo's Child was feeling brave
So she tiptoed out of the gruffalo cave.
The snow fell fast and the wind blew wild.
Into the wood went the Gruffalo's Child.
And in the way of adventure-seeking Gruffalos, the Gruffalo’s Child disregards her father’s warnings and escapes into the snowy moonlit night to hunt out the Big Bad Mouse, and in doing so, journeys alone, meeting the well-known characters from the first Gruffalo story. How will a young gruffalo survive in the wild? Does the Big Bad Mouse exist and will he be captured? Could there be a more engaging set of elements than the search, the snow, the dark night, the moon, the wild animals, the rhythm and the rhyme? This special edition is guaranteed to captivate a new generation.
Our Gruffalo family is well known and well-loved from the classroom to the local library to the home. In recognition of the amazing essence of this book, it was honoured by a British Book Award in 2005. It was a startling revelation that fifteen years have passed since The Gruffalo’s Child was first published. In that time, it has been translated into more than fifty languages and millions of children around the world have been enthralled. Combined worldwide sales of The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child have exceeded 17 million. It has been estimated that 9.8 million viewers watched the first film, The Gruffalo, when it was released on Christmas Day, 2009. A magical spark is ignited in children’s imaginations when Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler combine their exceptional talents.
How do you improve on perfection and issue a special edition of a very special book? You give the ownership right back to the child by including a cardboard jacket that becomes the snow scene, and a back flap featuring all the book’s characters, ready to pop out and stand up. Then you sit back and enjoy your child’s recreation of the beloved tale. The essence and beauty of Julia Donaldson’s words is their succinct simplicity which allows the reading and telling to be exaggerated, dramatised and invoked. And remembered.
Julia Donaldson is a writer, playwright and performer. She has woven joy into the lives of children for nearly three decades, beginning as a writer of songs for children’s television. She is a prolific author, having published almost 200 books, many of which are for use in schools and included in her Songbirds phonic reading scheme. Over sixty of her works are widely available in bookstores which is an amazing feat. Many have won awards including the Book Trust Early Years Award for 2004’s The Snail and the Whale.
Julia has received honorary Doctor of Letters degrees from both Bristol University (her alma mater) and Glasgow University. She was appointed an MBE for services to literature in 2011. In this year’s New Year Honours, she was bestowed the title of CBE in recognition of her significant contributions and was Children’s Laureate from 2011 to 2013. Julia is a patron of ArtLink Central and Bookbug, promoting reading and the arts, particularly in disadvantaged communities, and of Storybook Dads, a charity which helps prisoners send recordings of themselves reading bedtime stories for their children.
Think Julia Donaldson and we may automatically think illustrator Axel Scheffler, delighting us with the detail of The Gruffalo and his child (who is brave enough to go into those woods?) and the witch from Room on the Broom (squish up a bit more). Stick Man (what determination!) and Zog (who doesn’t love a gold-star needing, vulnerable little dragon?). The sequel to Zog, Zog and the Flying Doctors, helps support the Read-A-Thon charity.
Axel is a German-born British-based artist who is internationally acclaimed. Not only was he asked to design the 2006 Christmas card sent out by the Treasury, in 2012 he designed the Royal Mail Christmas postage stamps. Children of the world can celebrate that he was unsuccessful in his application to become an art teacher. Proof that talent will out, and, through twists and turns, goals can be achieved.
Until February, 2020, Z-Arts in Manchester, U. K., is hosting A World Inside A Book – Gruffalos, Dragons and Other Creatures, an amazing exhibition featuring some of the collaborations of Julia and Axel. A quick look confirms that tickets are sold out until Christmas! P.S. Please can the show come to town? Or at least Australia. Only asking on behalf of my grandchildren. Ahem.
The Gruffalo’s Child
15th Anniversary Edition
Written by Julia Donaldson and Illustrated by Axel Scheffler
42pp + Snow scene foldout