After we read The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child, I went to the library to look for more books by Julia Donaldson. She has written so many books with different illustrators, but I picked the ones that she wrote with Axel Scheffler, since he was the illustrator of The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child.
I managed to find quite a good selection of the books at the library, but surprisingly, Noah didn’t really enjoy some of them, and only asked me to re-read a few. I guess it’s good in a way, as it shows that he’s paying attention when I read, and that he actually has an opinion on the types of books that he likes. I’m only sharing the books that he enjoyed, and I’ll probably only write about the others if he shows an interest in them next time.
1. Stick Man This was a clear favourite, and after I read it a few times, Noah was able to chant the refrains with me, “Stick Man, oh Stick Man, beware of the…” and “I’m Stick Man, I’m Stick Man, I’m Stick Man, that’s me!” As with the other Julia Donaldson books, there are plenty of rhymes used in this book, which made reading the lines much easier. I thought it was pretty interesting how she personified a seemingly ordinary stick, giving him a family, and making him yearn for his family tree after a dog mistakenly grabs him, causing him to go on a crazy adventure. Stick Man is the classic example of someone who was at the wrong place at the wrong time, but thankfully, there’s a happy ending to this story, as he helps the “Stuck Man” (I love the word play here!), and got home because of his good deed. Noah was rather worried for him, and went, “Oh no!” each time Stick Man was taken away by someone else, and was thrilled that he finally managed to return to his family tree at the end.
2. Tiddler Tiddler is a small fish who tells the most incredible tales, and nobody really believes the stories that he tells, apart from one other little fish, Little Johnny Dory, who loves Tiddler’s tales, and tells them to his grandmother, who then tells a crab, who tells a plaice, and the stories make their rounds in this manner. Tiddler is perpetually late for school, claiming that his tardiness is caused by a squid, a seahorse, and even a mermaid, but one day, when he doesn’t show up for school, everyone starts wondering where he could be. Thanks to Little Johnny Dory, Tiddler follows his stories home, after hearing about them from various other sea creatures. There are some repetitive lines (“Tiddler? Tiddler? Tiddler’s late!”) in this story, which Noah loved saying, and he also enjoyed spotting the various sea animals on the pages. I think it also helped that the illustrations were really colourful, because at one point, Noah actually remarked, “It’s so beautiful!”
“There’s a Gruffalo there, mummy!”
3. What the Ladybird Heard Okay, I just realised that this one was illustrated by Lydia Monks instead of Axel Scheffler, but I’m including it anyway, because Noah really liked reading it as well. This book is highly interactive, as it invites the young reader to hunt for the ladybird on every page, and to trace her trail, which is a thin, glittery, raised line that snakes around some pages. There are plenty of animal sounds to be made, which preschoolers should enjoy. The ladybird seems like the most unlikely hero, since she’s so small, but that’s what I liked about the story. When two thieves hatch a plot to steal the farmer’s cow, the ladybird overhears their plan, and together with the other farm animals, she outwits them, and saves the day.
What the Ladybird Heard
Looking for the ladybird
Tracing the ladybird’s glittery trail
4. Monkey Puzzle / Where’s my Mom? Little Monkey can’t find his mummy, so the butterfly tries to help him find her, with hilarious results, because Little Monkey’s descriptions of his mother are too vague. Noah had a good laugh when we read this book, and would go, “Nooooo, that’s not his mummy!” The butterfly had no idea that Little Monkey’s mother resembled Little Monkey, as her children look nothing like her. The book is easy to read, with short, simple lines, and preschoolers should enjoy identifying the different animals that the butterfly brings Little Monkey to.
“That’s not his mummy!”
“That’s his mummy!”
5. Zog / A Gold Star for Zog This book was rather lengthy, but Noah was intrigued by the dragon and its antics, so he happily sat through multiple readings of the book. Zog is at a school for dragons, and earnestly tries to do his best to learn all the things that dragons need to know, but keeps getting into trouble, until a little girl helps him through each stage. To his surprise, she turns out to be a princess, which dragons need to kidnap, and she offers to let Zog kidnap her, just so that he can complete his training. I liked that she was definitely no damsel in distress, and refused to let the knight rescue her, because she just didn’t need to be rescued. It was also nice that Zog, the princess, and the knight, all decided to work together to provide medical assistance to those in need, rather than accepting their traditional fairytale roles.
6. The Smartest Giant in Town This is one of my favourite Julia Donaldson stories, because of its theme. George is a poorly dressed giant, who wants to look good, and purchases a new outfit to do so. He is so pleased with his new look that he walks through the town singing happily, and encounters various little animals who need different pieces of his outfit more than he does. George cheerfully gives them what they need, singing all the way, until he has nothing but his old, scruffy clothes left. The animals show their appreciation for George, and it’s wonderful to see how it’s what’s inside that truly counts. I love how this book teaches children to be kind and generous, because those are very important qualities that I hope Noah will have.
The Smartest Giant in Town
There are plenty of Julia Donaldson books available, and it’s not difficult to find at least one that your child will enjoy. If you’re unsure about which books to get, I hope this short list will help make your decision easier.
Buy the Book Stick Man
Borrow the Book Stick Man / Junior Lending Picture Book / English DON / Check for availability here Tiddler / Junior Lending Picture Book / English DON-[BA] / Check for availability here What the Ladybird Heard / Junior Lending Picture Book / English DON / Check for availability here Monkey Puzzle / Junior Lending Picture Book / English DON / Check for availability here Zog / Junior Lending Picture Book / English DON / Check for availability here The Smartest Giant in Town / Junior Lending Picture Book / English DON / Check for availability here
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