Why is The Gruffalo best selling children's book?

Created 26. Jun 2017
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We have 3 Gruffalo books at home. In 3 languages of course! By reading The Gruffalo in 3 different languages we encourage early language learning in our children. I must admit that I personally love the most the Slovenian version of the book, simply because the masterpiece translation by Milan Dekleva, who managed to preserve the rhythm and rhymes of The Gruffalo and added a tip of magic in the spirit of Slovene language.

How come The Gruffalo became the best selling children's book?

Julia Donaldson is the author of The Gruffalo. But it is no coincidence that she was the one who wrote the best-selling picture book! Julia has been writing songs for children for decades now and for the last 27 years she also writes books for children. Altogether she has published more than 180 works. Her first book for children was The Gruffalo, followed by many others. Many of her books for children are illustrated by Axel Schiferer, who really "hit" the image of The Gruffalo and later his successor: The Gruffalo Child.

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This book impressed my son and me so much that I started analyzing it... I was wondering what are The Gruffalo main characteristics? What are the ingredients for a children's betseller?  What can I learn so I might write a best seller someday?

Mojca Stubelj Ars anylsis of "The Gruffalo":

• The Gruffalo is an unisex book.

The book is appropriate for boys and girls.

• In The Gruffalo most of the characters are forest animals.

The animals are always attractive characters for children books. Forest animals are the closest to us, since each child gets to the forest eventually and can imagine animals living in it more vividly. Aside from that forest animals are heros in many fairy tales and picture books.

• The Gruffalo shows constant struggle between good and bad.

Emotional battle between good and bad evokes the worry if the story will end in favor of the mouse  - the hero of this fairy tale.

• In The Gruffalo the main character is a mouse.

The mouse is an often hero in fairy tales. The mouse represents the energy of children, as she is also "small", "weak", "cute" and "good".

• The Gruffalo is a unique character - a beast no one has ever seen before.

Children are easily amused by unreal characters.The mouse wants to trick all the forest animals that tent to eat her. That is why she invents the beat "The Gruffalo". But when she does meet the Gruffalo an unexpected twist happens and the story unfolds by going back to meet the forest animals again.

• In the book the reader gets introduced to The Gruffalo gradually.

The Gruffalo is the beat that children discover gradually, as the mouse describes Gruffalo to the owl, the fox and the snake... it's illustrated part by part, just as the mouse describes it. Only at the climax of the story actually on half of the book the child seas the best! In this way the children's curiosity as well as tension of the story are building up.

• The Gruffalo is a masterpiece in the field of illustration as well.

Every successful children's book must have attractive illustrations. This time we are talking about masterpiece in children's books! The Gruffalo has 24 pages and within that it contains: 
- 19 illustrations, out of that 2 are double-sided illustrations,
- 9 illustrations that depict body part of the Gruffalo,
- 3 illustrations of places where the mouse and the Gruffalo are meeting.
Double-sided illustrations present:
- story climax – when the mouse and the Gruffalo first meet
- happy ending – when the mouse sits in peace and eats it's nut.

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• The Gruffalo book is very colorful and cute. 

Axel Shiferer illustrated a beautiful forest scenes, cute mouse, lovely animals and the Gruffalo is a masterpiece itself! Children love colors and children love cute!

• The Gruffalo story rhymes.

The story is written in rhymes. The Gruffalo has been translated in 50 languages and translations that we have kept the main story but altered some words in order to keep the rhyme and rhythm in the translated language as well. I love them all! 

• The Gruffalo story has a rhytm.

The rhythm and rhyme are closely related in all languages. Toddlers are attracted with the melody of the language in which the rhyme and repetitive rhythm are very important. 

• The Gruffalo story builds on the repetition of events. 

The story folds on  Zaplet med miško in lisico se ponovi s sovo in s kačo. Razplet sledi obratnemu vrstnemu redu živali, saj se miška in Zverjasec sprehodita nazaj po poti in srečata najprej kačo, nato sovo in nazadnje lisico.

• The Gruffalo story has about 700 words in English language.

The story is short so it does not give extra information or uses description of the place, feelings, details. The Gruffalo book is so attractive that it may amuse alrealy a 2 year old child.

• The Gruffalo story has an interesting problem.

The storyline is clear for children: everyone wants to eat the mouse! All children understand quite soon that in nature the stronger or bigger one eats the weaker / smaller one. Of course they cheer for the mouse!

• The Gruffalo story has a tipical storyline.

Looking at the relatively short number of words the story is quite dynamic and has the twist! On 24 pages there is an introduction, composition, twist or turnover and happy ending! The climax of the story, when mouse meets the Gruffalo is on pages 13 and 14! It's obvious that the story was written by experienced story-writer who captured all that drama on such a short text. 

• The Gruffalo story has a nice message children relate to.

When a good character wins with a trick it's even sweeter! With no doubt any Gruffalo reader instantly likes the mouse and hopes all goes well for it. The inventiveness of the mouse takes it to the victory of tricking the owl, the fox, the snake and the Gruffalo!

Ko zmaga dober in majhen lik z ukano je to toliko slajše. Že od samega začetka vsak bralec oziroma. poslušalec navija za miško. Prav njena iznajdljivost jo pripeljejo do zmagoslavja. Sporočilo pravljice: um najbolj močno orodje.

• The Gruffalo book has a vivid visual dynamic.

I can say that The Gruffalo is special also in regard to the layout of the illustrations and the text. Discovering The Gruffalo piece by piece is very attractive for children. it's also hard to predict what the next page will look like. Although this story has model of repetition, it's kind of visually unusual and very fun at the same time.

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No matter when your child will meet with The Gruffalo, be sure that it will love this fairy tale would of Julia Donaldson and Axel Shiferer. Did you know that Julia Donaldson is also multilingual? Aside form her mother-tongue Julia speaks French, German and Italian languages. And on top of that she plays piano, cello and guitar. Undoubtedly Julia Donaldson is one more living proof that early language learning and learning music are of tremendous importance for the brain development. It appears also for the development of imagination and success in life. The Gruffalo could be only the fruit of a wonderful mind, talent and vision!

Slika Mojca02

Mojca is versatile: researcher of the world, ecologist, PhD, polyglot, business woman, cynologist, wife and mother... above all she loves kids, dogs and the world of fairytale heroes. Mojca, a Fulbright Scholar and Alpine Space awarded young scientist, has dyslexia, but still loves to read and write. Spelling is still a challenge for Mojca. Beware of missing letters in this blog!

Mojca writes the blog on things she lives for: raising children, learning foreign languages, dogs, start-up and good books... things Mojca is really passionate about.

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