cover image The Gruffalo

The Gruffalo

Julia Donaldson. Dial Books, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2386-3

The eponymous character introduced by this British team owes a large debt to Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. When Mouse meets Fox in the ""deep dark wood,"" he invents a story about the gruffalo, described very much like Sendak's fearsome quartet of wild things--""He has terrible tusks, and terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws."" The gullible fox runs away when Mouse tells him that the gruffalo's favorite food is roasted fox. ""Silly old Fox!"" says Mouse, ""Doesn't he know?/ There's no such thing as a gruffalo!"" Owl and Snake follow suit until, with a turn of the page, Mouse runs into the creature he has imagined. Quick-thinking Mouse then tells the monster, ""I'm the scariest creature in this deep dark wood./ Just walk behind me and soon you'll see,/ Everyone for miles is afraid of me."" Fox, Owl and Snake appear to be terrified of the tiny mouse, but readers can plainly see the real object of their fears. By story's end, the gruffalo flees, and Mouse enjoys his nut lunch in peace. Despite the derivative plot line, debut author Donaldson manipulates the repetitive language and rhymes to good advantage, supplying her story with plenty of scary-but-not-too-scary moments. Scheffler's gruffalo may seem a goofy hybrid of Max's wild things, but his cartoonlike illustrations build suspense via spot-art previews of the monster's orange eyes, black tongue and purple prickles until the monster's appearance in full. Ages 4-8. (June)