Posts Tagged ‘julia donaldson’



My First Gruffalo: Touch-and-feel

Ok, so it’s not my first Gruffalo. In fact, I have every version of the Gruffalo and even my very own Gruff that watches over me at night…seriously his eyes glow orange.

This fantastic new book is the latest in the play and learn series from The Gruffalo franchise. We all know how it goes…

“he has terrible tusks, and terrible claws

and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws.

He has knobbly knees, and turned out toes

and a poisonous wart at the end of his nose.

His eyes are orange, his tongue is black…

and he has purple prickles all over his back.

Oh help, oh no it’s a Gruffalo.”

Do you know it by heart?

This fantastic new book teaches all the key elements of the rhyming story whilst introducing the touch-and-feel books. Other than the buggy book, this is the first Gruffalo story you should introduce to your child before moving on to the full story in a board or paperback picture book. It gives the jist of Donaldson’s story and children can remember the distinctive poisonous wart through the sticky feeling they get when they touched it in the book (I admit, I did touch the wart. I’m now expecting one to spring up on me anytime now-eek!).

The Gruffalo books aren’t just any oldpicture book…they teach so much more. If we think to what Janet and Allan Ahlberg taught us with ‘The Baby Catalogue’ and ‘Each Peach, Pear, Plum’; The Gruffalo is up there in the play and learn accolade hall of fame. The story in itself is full of character and charm and a real message of bravery. The illustrations by Axel Scheffler are so incredibly visual. It’s rare that a children’s illustrator can engage with the page and story so much. There’s a lot to the Gruffalo and a lot to remember but it’s a guarantee that if you ask a child to tell you about him, they will tell you in great (and accurate) detail.

And so this new book for even littler ones helps them along the way in learning all about the big bad Gruffalo and the ever so clever little mouse. And I must say, the Gruffalo is sporting a serious Elvis DO with his touch-and-feel tuft of hair on the front cover!

My First Gruffalo: Touch and Feel

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Macmillan Children’s Books



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In a children’s book, the world can be anything you want it to be.

I think that’s part of what draws me back into children’s literature time and time again; why I go straight to the kids section when I walk into a book store, and why I spend far too much of my money discovering wondrous characters and fleeting adventures.

I was chatting with Kate Wilson the other day, MD of children’s publisher Nosy Crow and she asked if my interests were with fiction  or illustrated work – the answer was clear; illustrated. I so often recall a fond memory with the visual elements of a book. Thinking back…I do it all the time.

When I rediscovered Usborne’s First Experience series ‘Going to School’, it was the iconic illustration of the two children at school enjoying a break time snack of cookies and juice in amongst their craft making which brought everything back.  And when I found Jill Murphy’s ‘Five Minutes Peace’ in the loft, it was Mrs Large enjoying a huge slice of cake which brought the initial smile to my face.

Sometimes, a story needs pictures. That little something that connects us with what we’re reading- almost anthropomorphising characters which are otherwise just written text. That’s not to say that a story can’t hold it’s own just as a text…quite the opposite. It’s that a story can be so hauntingly beautiful or meaningful or just plain crazy, that it deserves to be forever animated, to honour its talent and imagination.

As Kate Wilson said, there’s a fine line between a picture and an illustration. The drawing has to go hand in hand with story being told. There are some wonderful successes with this notion. Just look at Oliver Jeffers’ Lost and Found…is there anything more iconic than that wonderful little boy and his friend the penguin?

Or the Gruffalo, oh yes that terrible creature with terrible claws and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws (by the way, he’s not that terrible, he sits quite happily guarding my bookcase with his beady orange eyes). Julia Donaldson has said that she doesn’t really communicate with illustrator Axel Scheffler when they work together. She writes the story and hands him the script and he bring the story to life. It’s truly a wonderful thing to see books like The Gruffalo become so iconic that when children come into the store and see the Gruffalo toy, their faces light up and they shout out lines from the book.

Having household names in children’s books, in particular picture books, is important for children to discover their likes and dislikes and latch on to something they like and to progress from there. But it’s equally important to discover something new, something that stops you in your tracks because it’s different and can only be described as imagination.

And that’s where Book Trust’s ‘Best New Illustrator’s Award comes in. It is a celebration of talented new illustrators and the talent on show here is just astounding. Take a look for yourself on the Book Trust website http://www.booktrust.org.uk/Prizes-and-awards/Best-New-Illustrators-Award

There’s a complete array of style on show; from the graphic design inspired to exotic, abstract colourings- it’s all just wondrous to look at and many of the final 10 have already had their illustrations published.

This award is just an honest celebration of great talent, bringing even more imagination into the wonderful world of children’s books.

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