Sequels are usually a hit-or-miss, and it’s especially tough when the follow-up effort has a lot to live up to — say, a gazillion-copies-sold bestseller such as The Gruffalo, for instance. But, given its pedigree, it would be remiss of me not to give The Gruffalo’s Child a read — and boy am I glad I did, because it may be one of those rare entities: a sequel that’s even better than its acclaimed antecedent.
Like The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child features the superlative lively, humorous rhyming prose of Julia Donaldson, as well as the familiar cast of characters that we read about in the original title — with one addition, of course: the titular Gruffalo’s Child.
Set “a long, long time” after the Gruffalo first encountered the sly little mouse, the Gruffalo is now shown as a parent who tells his son cautionary bedtime stories about the forbidden deep dark wood that houses the formidable “Big Bad Mouse”. Like any curious kid with no sense of danger, the Gruffalo’s Child is more intrigued than terrified by the stories, and sneaks off into the wood one night while his father is asleep, to look for the Big Bad Mouse.
Along the way, he runs into the snake, the owl and the fox who were, like the Gruffalo, all hoodwinked by the mouse into believing that it is more threatening than it really is, and they help to perpetuate the idea of the mouse being a scary creature who snacks on “gruffalo pie/cake”, and drinks “gruffalo tea”.
When the Gruffalo’s Child finally runs into the infamous mouse, however, the latter manages to pull off yet another daring ruse that sends the Gruffalo’s Child fleeing back to the safety of his cave.
If you’ve read and liked The Gruffalo, you’ll love this book, which is the perfect example of what all sequels should strive to be: a well-thought-out, logical continuation of the story that manages to retain the original’s spirit and tone without being predictable, and with a charm all its own.