A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood.
A fox saw the mouse and the mouse looked good.
“Where are you going to, little brown mouse?
Come and have lunch in my underground house.”
“It’s terribly kind of you, Fox, but no—
I’m going to have lunch with a gruffalo.”
“A gruffalo? What’s a gruffalo?”
“A gruffalo! Why, didn’t you know?”
The Gruffalo, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, is an award-winning classic children’s story. In this story, a small mouse meets up with various potential predators while strolling through a deep dark wood. To ward them off, the clever mouse repeats a riddle-like, rhyming tale of being on its way to meet up with a gruffalo. Not having heard of this creature before and having doubts about whether it exists, the predators each inquire: “What is a gruffalo?” The mouse adds new detailed descriptions with each potential predator it encounters, from terrible claws to terrible jaws, before adding that the gruffalo’s favorite food is the predator to whom the mouse is speaking. This latter fact causes each predator to flee in fear. Eventually, the mouse stumbles into this phantom-like creature. As a solution to not get eaten by the gruffalo, the mouse claims to be the scariest creature in the woods and offers to prove it. With the gruffalo following behind the mouse, the two backtrack through the deep dark wood where they meet up with the same animals who previously wanted to eat the mouse. They are all in disbelief to see a real-life gruffalo and get scared away, but the mouse takes credit for their fear. The Gruffalo was originally published in 1999 and has since been translated into more than sixty languages.
What makes this version new and unique is that the book includes English as well as Inuktitut translations. Inuktitut is a Canadian Indigenous language primarily spoken in the northern territories. It is sometimes referred to as the Inuit language. Inuktitut symbols are included above each of the English words and phrases throughout the story. Inuktitut is considered an endangered language because there are few speaking survivors and it is no longer commonly taught to children. This version of The Gruffalo was published in Iqaluit, Nunavut, where many families and schools seek to rescue and revitalize the dying language. By taking a famous story with appealing illustrations and a laugh-out-loud funny storyline that is enjoyable for all, this edition offers hope that children everywhere will gain an awareness of the Inuktitut language embedded within.
From the poetic phrases filled with rhythm and rhymes, to the intriguing creatures and forest landscape illustrations, this book would make an excellent addition to any home, school, or public library. It provides learning opportunities for children in a way beyond what they will likely realize on their own. With the support of adults to explicitly point things out and teach a primary audience, the learning experiences may be further enriched. For example, The Gruffalo could be integrated into the teaching of Manitoba’s grade 4 Social Studies cluster: Canada’s North. Regardless of how the story is taught or read, the exposure of children to viewing the Inuktitut language is, in and of itself, a benefit to expand the audience's knowledge and awareness of language and literacy.
Andrea Boyd is an early years’ teacher in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is currently pursuing her Master of Education degree specializing in Language and Literacy at the University of Manitoba.