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The Gruffalo is a popular read-aloud picture book collaboration from writer Julia Donaldson and illustrator Alex Scheffler. It has been on our shelves for 10 years now, and it has become hugely successful, selling millions of copies worldwide. The tale is about a courageous mouse who outwits many woodland creatures to evade being eaten, mouse cunningly wards of three predators by telling them of a fictional character 'The Gruffalo', imagine his surprise when mouse comes face to face with, a Gruffalo!
The Gruffalo has become a popular character with toddlers and young children. It is a favourite book in our house, as it is immensely enjoyable to read and it never loses its appeal. It keeps my son on tenterhooks, and he often requests I read it to him.
Other merchandise has spawned from this popular book, with there being a few select products for sale that are all beautifully created with great attention to detail, (thankfully you won't see the characters slapped onto everything). The Gruffalo magnet book is one such item, which is designed for children of 36 months of age and up.
>>> An Attractive Book
The large A4 board book has a sturdy plastic carry handle and a clasp to hold the book together, which makes it an ideal toy to take out and about to keep a toddler busy. It contains over 60 magnets for creating scenes or recreating favourite scenes from the story, there are also activities and magnets to create your very own monster. The front of the book has two see-through pockets, one which contains a paperback mini edition of the original story, and the other houses all of the magnets, which are held in with a card insert.
Each page is beautifully illustrated with images being similar to that of the story book, all of the smaller creatures namely insects, squirrels, birds and a rabbit are dotted around on each page, which gives scope to talk about creatures that inhabit a woodland, and you can ask your child to point out the different creatures and name them. The glossy card pages are incredibly thick making them sturdy and durable for plenty of hours of play.
>>> Create your own scenes
The first scene has an activity that asks you to locate where the animals live, such as 'who lives in an underground house?' older children that are familiar with the story will enjoy the challenge of housing the animals in their rightful environment. This gives scope to talk about the woodland animals and the environment that they live in, this is a great activity to get children to focus and concentrate, and it will give them a great sense of achievement to complete the activity. With over 60 magnets you can take out some of the magnets to make it a bit easier for younger children, and for older children you can shuffle the magnets up so they can search for the animals, you can also give clues if your child struggles. You can also ask what other animals they might find in the wood. There is also an area at the bottom of the page to use the animals to create a scene.
The next page is a double page spread with an empty woodland picture for your child to create their very own scene with the magnets, which will encourage them to use their imagination, and they can have fun making up their own stories. The scene can also be used to recreate favourite scenes from the original story. This gives a child more opportunity to be creative and use their imagination as this scene can be used however they like. The scene is beautifully illustrated with great attention to detail, there are twigs, leaves, and acorns on the ground, as well as there being some insects for your child to discover. This scene focuses mainly on the ground based creatures and the picture shows mostly the trunks of the tree, this gives scope to discuss the way in which these grounded creatures move.
There is another double page spread which has woodland creatures hiding in the scene asking your child how many can they spot. This is another great activity for building concentration skills, it will also encourage counting, and for younger children you can count for them as they point to the different creatures. This is a useful activity for identifying and naming creatures. It also asks your child to fill in the scene with similar creatures, such as butterflies, birds, and bugs. This picture is mainly focused on creatures that are found in the sky which gives scope to talk about how these creatures move. Alongside the scene is a mini game of three-in-a-row, which your child can choose whether they would like to be mouse or Gruffalo, to try to outwit you as they match three-in-a-row of their chosen creature.
On the final page is an area to create your very own monster using the monster pieces which can be mixed-and-matched to create all kinds of unusual monsters, there are three different variations for each of the body parts. There are questions that ask if your monster will be scary or silly, and where do you think it will live. This is a fun activity that is sure to elicit a few giggles. Your child can use their imagination to create the silliest monster they can. On the adjacent page is a Gruffalo quiz, to test your child's knowledge to see if they are a fan. This asks questions about things that happen in the story, as well as asking questions about what colour certain creatures are. I'm sure most parents will know the answers, as if like me you will know the story inside out and will be able to read it without looking at the pages. Don't worry if your memory is a little fuzzy as the answers are written upside down in smaller font.
>>>> Magnets, magnets, magnets!
There are a whopping 60 magnets to use with this book, with all of the main characters, fox, mouse, owl, snake, and of course the Gruffalo, and lots of other magnets such as flowers, birds and other familiar images from the original story. The images are printed onto card that is glued onto the magnets which are pliable making them easy to remove from the page; the only drawback here is that some of the larger magnets crease easily with heavy usage. The Gruffalo in our set has become quite crinkled and some of the edges are starting to peel up. Also some of the magnets are tiny so a few have been lost. It would be good to be able to buy replacement magnets, as we have lost quite a few of ours now. I was quite surprised at just how tiny some of the magnets are, in fact, I put some of them away as they were just too small. It is important to remember that this toy should be used under supervision as magnets are incredibly dangerous if swallowed. Even children older than the recommended 36 months of age are still prone to putting things to their mouth or into their mouth. I would suggest that it is best to take out the tiny magnets as they are not all that important, and there are enough large magnets for a child to enjoy.
>>> A Mini Gruffalo
The set also includes a miniature version of the full length storybook. This is the same as the larger book and is of good quality; the book is an ideal size and is great for an extra book. We don't use this one as much, as we already have the board book version and the large paperback version. This is a nice extra if you haven't already got the book, and if you haven't read it before you will be delighted with it. This book has an advantage of being lightweight and smaller, which is good when you have a toddler bouncing on your knee and you only have one had to hold the book. I do prefer the larger book though as you get to appreciate the pictures in a larger size.
>>> Let's get creative
My son was delighted when I first presented him with this book, he beamed with excitement and he was eager to look inside. As soon as he got past the clasp he was determined to get to the magnets, I didn't get much of a look in, as he was far too excited! Even with persistence he still wasn't able to get the magnets out, so I offered some help and slid the card insert out. The magnets fell to the floor, and he was a happy boy as he jostled them about the floor, eventually he sat down and examined them one by one. After showing him how they stuck to the book he was away creating his own scene, once he had had filled the page he swept them all off and started again and this kept him busy for quite some time. My son plays with this magnet book most days, and he is just as excited each time I get it out for him, he will sit for long periods of time filling in the page. He prefers the double page spread as this has the most space for him to stick the magnets to. I also ask my son to find the different creatures for me, and there are lots of things to discuss whilst playing with this book. This book has had a high amount of use, and it is always lots of fun as it can be used in many different ways and you can create different scenes each time.
Each page has a different coloured background with lots of decoration on the borders; there are simple instructions and ideas to prompt your child, and questions floating around the sides of the pages. The bold black font is set on the coloured borders making it easy to read. The overall quality of the book is fantastic, and just what I would expect from the creators.
>>> What can the Gruffalo teach your child?
It may seem like there's not many pages to this book, however, they can all be used in many different ways. As well as being great fun it has so many educational values, such as counting, colour recognition, animal recognition, and picture- word association. As well as encouraging speech development, it will also develop fine motor skills too from manipulating the magnets, and hand-eye coordination, and it introduces young children to magnetism. Not forgetting that you have a full length picture book to read to your child.
All in all, this set offers great value for money as you are getting a sturdy board book, 60 magnets and the full length picture book to read. It can be found on offer, and I did, in fact, buy this when it was half price, but I would happily pay full price for it, as it offers great play value and it is of excellent quality. It is available in retail outlets such as Whsmiths, Waterstones, The Early Learning Centre, and other good book and toy stores may stock it.
The Gruffalo magnet book is also available on-line from the following retailers:
REMEMBER: Magnets are highly dangerous if swallowed, so adult supervision is required with this toy.
* No. of pages: 10.
* Format: Board book.
* Age range: 3 to 5.
* Size: 30.0cm x 23.5cm.
* Publisher: Pan Macmillan.
* For ages 3 and upwards.
* RRP: £12.99.
You can meet the Gruffalo and his creators on his very own website!