Don't worry. I'm not going to introduce you to a little known struggling title called 'The Gruffalo' today:
It's just possible that you may have already come across it.
I've just come back from Eddie's 'Inspire' lesson this morning however and it made me reflect on how central that book has been in inspiring his passion for words: Today is something of a hymn of praise to the Magnum Opus of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler therefore (and a silent prayer for the time that they will be allowed to be a slightly less constant presence in our lives.)
In the Inspire workshop we were asked to make wooden spoon puppets with our children. I wasn't surprised to hear Eddie's choice of what to make today; he's been back in full-on Gruffalo fever since Christmas when the charming 'The Gruffalo's Child' animation was on the telly. I have been quite surprised by the depth of this fever this time around though. It's a bit like chicken pox- he had a very strong dose of it in his two to threes and I thought he wouldn't catch it twice.
I can't quite remember the origins of his first bout of fever but I suppose it's the book that he latched onto after 'Hooray For Fish' had been sucked dry. We read it several times a day for a while and then it joined him in bed where we would hear Eddie going through it and reciting the story again after lights out. After a while we realised he was teaching himself to read with it. He knew the story word perfectly and would go through the book slowly word by word with his finger to the text matching his knowledge to the shapes he found. He was very methodical and as he appears to be lucky enough to have a semi-photographic memory it was pretty efficient too. 'The Gruffalo' wasn't the only book he used in this way but it was the first to be ingrained I think. The words are certainly deeply ingrained in my head too.
He also had 'The Gruffalo' magnet book and for a while he would need all the (very very small) magnets of the characters to also be with him at bedtime which led to some midnight panics when the mouse slipped under his pillow or similar.
This time around life has been made easier by the existence of ever increasing amounts of Gruffalo merchandise. Eddie found the plush models of the characters in a book shop and refused to be parted from them. Luckily he had some Christmas money of his own to spend. Now they accompany him around the house along with both books, as backdrop and audience to whatever else he is doing/reading. Occasionally we build houses for them. Sometimes they need breakfast provided but normally they're fairly undemanding house guests.
His reading of 'The Gruffalo' has taken on new layers of textual analysis as he pores over each page anew. "Mum- it says here 'down by these rocks' but the picture only has one rock in it...where is the other rock Mum?"
"Is the Gruffalo really a baddy who becomes a goody or a goody who can be a baddy Mum?"
"Will the Gruffalo's Child's bumps become prickles when she is a teenager? Will she get a poisonous wart one day?" "Why is she a butterscotch colour when her dad is chocolate brown?"
These are the questions which I field daily, normally whilst staring at the fridge blankly for inspiration for the next meal.
As I say, whilst fully appreciative of the quality of the Work and all it has given my son- I won't be sorry when the fever passes once more (although that may depend, of course, on what replaces it...).
In the mean time we made a cracking Gruffalo spoon puppet if I do say so myself (no picture alas).
'The Gruffalo' by (you don't really need me to tell you this do you?) Julia Donaldson, illus. Axel Scheffler,
pub. Macmillan, isbn 0-333-71093-2