by Julia Donaldson
illustrated by Axel Scheffler
London: Macmillan, 1999
Interests: mice, monsters, animals, underdog stories
Also by this author and illustrator: The Gruffalo’s Child
A mouse walking in the woods is menaced by various predators but he scares them all off by inventing a fearsome monster he claims to be meeting. Imagine his surprise when the monster he’d made up suddenly appears! The Gruffalo is about to eat him up but the mouse manages to outwit him as well. The mouse brags that he is the most feared creature in these woods, and says if the Gruffalo will walk with him he will prove his claim. As they approach each of the predators from earlier, they all see the Gruffalo and flee. The Gruffalo believes they are fleeing the mouse, in fact he is so convinced of the mouse’s fierceness that he himself runs away from the little rodent.
Told entirely in rhyming couplets, this is a winning update of a very old narrative – that of a weak and defenseless animal outwitting a much stronger and more powerful foe. The mouse is admirable for his cleverness as well as his sheer bravado. The appearance of the fearsome monster himself, the Gruffalo, is instead of a scary moment a very funny one, as the mouse suddenly meets up with the very creature he thought he had made up.
Light, funny and immensely satisfying. An easy favourite for all.