Encountering a Gruffalo


Grand-parenting is fabulous, as great as all of our friends had told us it would be. It’s somewhat similar to folks from outside Texas when they first visit a Buc-ee’s and tell you, “I heard about it, but you can’t fully appreciate it until you’re here.” We are “here” for the grandparent thing and loving every minute.

I am Poppy and my long-suffering bride is Mimi to our tall, precocious 3.5-year-old chatterbox grandson and we were able to have him spend a day or two with us this weekend (we are fortunate that they live only 30 minutes away from us in North Texas). We enjoyed playing in the sand in our neighborhood’s elaborate lagoon pool and in the afternoon went to our nearby mall (someone else’s A/C!) and visited the two-story Barnes and Noble therein. We were able to browse the books (browsing books by picking them up and reading a bit–what a concept!) and found a surprisingly wonderful book in the children’s section that featured books and stuffed animals to match.

Another excellent thing about grand-parenting is that you and your grandchildren can encounter books for the first time that have been enjoyed by millions. Such was the case with our purchase of the delightful book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, “The Gruffalo” published more than 20 years ago. The book features rhyming text, repetitive language and story structure, and some very clever twists and turns. Our grandson loved it and wanted to have it read to him repeatedly during that evening and the afternoon that followed.

It reminded us of the books that our girls loved to have read to them when they were young like “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and the wonderfully silly books by Jon Scieszka (“The Stinky Cheese Man” and “The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs”). My mom tells us that I was a big fan of P.D. Eastman’s “Are You My Mother?” and I can remember the wonderful books read on Captain Kangaroo and seen in black and white (“Caps for Sale,” “Make Way for Ducklings,” and “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel”).

We can’t wait to get to longer texts and chapter books and get caught up on the best of children’s literature from the last 30 years as our little men get older! What are some of your family’s favorite picture books?

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  1. JoelB Member

    Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now! This book makes me think of a parent trying to get a child to go to bed although that is never explicitly stated

    • #1
  2. Marjorie Reynolds Coolidge
    Marjorie Reynolds

    I like the Mog series by Judith Kerr, about an accident prone cat.

    • #2
  3. Tex929rr Coolidge

    “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel”

    Oh, that brings back memories.

    PS:  i mentioned this to the Mrs and she went and found the copy I didn’t know we had.  Wonderful.

    • #3
  4. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    All the Babar the Little Elephant books by Jean de Brunhoff.

    All the Madeline books, by Ludwig Bemelmans, all in poetry.

    My aunt, Molly Cone, wrote a whole series of books involving a dog called Mish Mash, and I discovered that they are still in print.  For older kids who can read.

    • #4
  5. She Member

    Oh, my Lord.  There’s nothing like grandparenting.  (Full disclosure:  I couldn’t have biological children of my own.  I inherited the kids from my husband, whose second wife I was.  I soon realized that the “step” designation meant nothing in relation to the three of them, and by the next generation, the idea of “step-grandma” was so ludicrous as to be nugatory.  I’m her granny.  End of story.)

    Great post.  I learned about the Gruffalo from my Auntie Pat (99 next month; may she live forever.)

    Speaking for myself, I’m extraordinarily fond of one of my heroines, Beatrix Potter.  At the age of–three, four, five–I discovered a complete and very early set of her tales, half-way up the stairs in that self-same Auntie Pat’s house–one which had been my father’s childhood home as well.  Oh, how I loved sitting on the stairs, among the butter-yellow walls, discovering the adventures of Peter, Benjamin, the Two Bad Mice, Jemima, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, and all the rest of them.

    They affected my life in ways I can’t explain in short form, although I expect a few long-time Ricochet members can see the result.

    • #5
  6. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby

    Harold and the Purple Crayon (and its follow-ons).

    A new one (how exciting – a good children’s book published in 2020!): “See the Dog: Three Stories About a Dog.”  Discovered by my brother, and our 2.5 year old granddaughter loves it (we read it at least twice a day on a recent visit), and Mrs. Tabby and I found it fun to read. Story twists a young child can appreciate, but simple enough for her to follow. 

    Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel was a favorite of our son (who is now 34 years old). He dressed as Mike Mulligan for a school day in which students were to dress as their favorite book character. And he was very pleased that the school principal recognized that was his character. 

    We’re about to introduce our grandchildren (ages 5 and now 3) to our special collection of Beatrix Potter books with stories about Peter Rabbit. 

    At the moment our 5 year old grandson strongly prefers informational books about dinosaurs over story books. But I have begun introducing him to silly songs, like “On Top of Spaghetti” and “There’s a Hole in the Bucket,” which he enjoys. 

    We still have many of the books that were favorites of our children (many are Dr. Seuss stories), and take them on our 4 or 5 visits a year to the grandchildren. They (and some puzzles and games we also bring) are “specials” for reading and playing only on grandparent visits. Mrs. Tabby particularly likes reading “The King Who Rained” by Fred Gwynne about some of the oddities of the English language. 

    • #6
  7. navyjag Coolidge

    Wish I could be so lucky.  Oldest daughter  a finance dynamo.  Wants no husband or kids. Typical feminist “I can do it all.’ And she has re: the money.  Oldest son engage to a Chinese lady. Wedding back there. On hold for over 2 years now. And she is 39. Youngest son the only one married. But he and Ms. would rather travel (just back from Spain) than wipe butts.  Maybe one of them will adopt.  Hope springs eternal. 

    • #7
  8. jzdro Member

    Good for you, Grandpa!

    Now, . . . listen and attend unto me . . . graciously waving her tail . . .

    Acquire, read aloud, and distribute the Just So Stories of Rudyard Kipling.


    • #8
  9. Headedwest Coolidge

    Our kids loved (and I hope our grandkids will love) the Dr. Suess alphabet book. It’s a hoot to read, and the kids get the rhythm and love it.

    “Big A, little a, what begins with A? Aunt Annie’s alligator; A, A, A”  all the way to “It’s a Zizzerzazzerzuss, as you can plainly see.”

    • #9
  10. TBA Coolidge

    Might I commend to you The Princess in Black series of chapter books. The early ones are awesome, but they decline over time as they add more and more princesses and the story is squished by the collective weight of the cast. 

    • #10
  11. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist

    Kipper the Dog books are sweet and gentle. There were videos made as well, but the books are great for bed time reading to young ones. 

    Skippyjon Jones is a “banned” series about a Siamese cat who likes to pretend he’s a Chihuahua. It’s un-pc because it’s supposedly offensive to Latinos. It’s hilarious and imaginative and you’ll be counter-pc-culture if you read it to your grandson.

    But, our all time favorite (and also un-pc) is Tikki Tikki Tembo about a Chinese boy with a long name who falls into a well. I won’t spoil the ending. Read it and enjoy.

    • #11
  12. Poindexter Member

    navyjag (View Comment):

    Wish I could be so lucky. Oldest daughter a finance dynamo. Wants no husband or kids. Typical feminist “I can do it all.’ And she has re: the money. Oldest son engage to a Chinese lady. Wedding back there. On hold for over 2 years now. And she is 39. Youngest son the only one married. But he and Ms. would rather travel (just back from Spain) than wipe butts. Maybe one of them will adopt. Hope springs eternal.

    Similar situation here, details are different. I can relate to the sadness.

    • #12
  13. Poindexter Member

    No Roses for Harry! is a sweet story about a dog who contrives to get rid of his new sweater, which is not to his liking, only to have it re-appear in an unexpected place.

    The Runaway Pancake is a favorite from my childhood. The title is also the plot.

    Our kids loved “I Can’t” Said the Ant , and all of the I Spy books (there are many versions).

    • #13
  14. davenr321 Coolidge

    Always, but ALWAYS, Andrew Henry’s Meadow. 

    • #14
  15. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat

    My best friend would stop by on Saturday morning and we’d walk to the local Carnegie Library for story time.  Anything by Dr. Seuss was a favorite. Then we’d check out some books and go by the candy story.

    I never read The Wind in the Willows as a kid – so I read it as an adult and loved it. The drawings are fantastic. My dad would read to me Fifty Famous Fairy Tales to get me to go to sleep – they are the Grimm series. Those are great memories that stick with you.

    • #15
  16. Justin Other Lawyer Coolidge
    Justin Other Lawyer

    Hank the Cowdog by John Erickson is a really fun and light series told from the perspective of a dog named Hank who’s the “head of ranch security” at a ranch in rural Texas.  They’re very light and very formulaic, but (especially the audiobooks (read by the author)) they are fun for children and adults.

    Interesting story–Erickson originally created accounts of Hank’s “adventures” for a rancher’s magazine, which stories appeared in the magazine in serial form a number of years.  Hank became popular among the ranchers, but Erickson eventually learned the stories had found an audience with children as well.  The first book was published in 1983, and there are now 78 in the series.  As far as I know Erickson is still writing, so there are probably more to come.

    • #16
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