I could never understand what all the fuss was about. Yes, the bookshops were absolutely plastered with it, I heard that my nephew loved it but then I found the Gruffalo just ugly and offputting, and thought I didn't have to follow every "fashion" in books, so for ages never bothered to buy this book for my own children. Eventually bought it in a "buy 2 get one free offer" thinking ok, let's give in, if everyone has it, we maybe should have it as well, but still put it away as a standby-just-in-case birthday present forgetting about it.
Then one of my children "did" Julia Donaldson books in reception, telling me he liked her books. They went to the theatre to see "The Gruffalo's child" as a play and obviously talked about "The Gruffalo" first.
Finally I found the copy I'd bought and gave it to my youngest for his 2nd birthday. Still (!!) it just flew around for a couple of weeks.
Suddenly, when I read it to the child who'd "done" it at school, my 2-year-old was suddenly very interested. And he's a child that normally can't really be "read to" (yet). With lots of other books, he runs away after about the first sentence. But this was one of the first books I could read to him from cover to cover. Now he also requests particular animals such as the snake or the fox and jumps in anticipation of the page when the Gruffaloooooo finally appears properly.
He loves it when the Gruffalo comes along, joins in when the Gruffalo is described (e.g. the colour of his eyes etc.) and finds it a bit scary but in the "I'm safe and just like a funny little shiver down my back" sort of way while lauging out loud. Certainly nothing for him to get nightmares about.
I don't think that very young children "get" the full meaning behind the story, but older children (around 5 years) certainly understand how clever the mouse is and how she frightens both the other animals and the Gruffalo who'd all love to eat her in a variety of hilarious dishes.
The rhymes are just absolutely great. I wish there would be more children's book authors like Julia Donaldson!
PS Needless to say we now have the other Julia Donaldson books, too (at last).
PPS And please don't be as ignorant as I was, do put this book in your shopping basket. Now. Then when it arrives, read it aloud.