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Jun 21 / Caro

Squashing and Squeezing My Little Gruffalo

Thomas, like a lot of young children, is totally addicted to the kiddy-crack that is Julia Donaldson’s work. She has the rare and special talent of being able to create worlds with words that absorb young imaginations and help them flourish. And when paired with the illustrations of a host of talented artists, it’s an unbeatable formula. Thomas invariably picks at least one from our collection of her works each bedtime (current favourites being Monkey Puzzle, Room on the Broom, A Squash and a Squeeze and The Snail and the Whale). I adore the fact that he imagines himself as a Gruffalo, and can recite the words of that book, and it’s sequel, almost perfectly. He’s been captivated by the rhythm and rhyme of many of the books from a very young age, inserting the repeating clauses himself as we read aloud from almost the moment he began to talk.

That said, I must admit that I don’t love all of Donaldson’s work. Some of the tales are harder to read aloud than others, and some simply miss the mark for me. However, when the touring Seven Stories exhibition “A Squash and a Squeeze: Sharing Stories with Julia Donaldson” came to Chatham Historic Dockyard Kent, it seemed like a no-brainer that we would go. As it turned out, though, we actually didn’t make it until the weekend the exhibition closed, which means in many ways I’m a bit late with this post! (The good news, however, is that the exhibition is due to open in Bradford next week, running until November).

It didn’t disappoint. Not only was it awash with original illustrations from all of her most well known works, along with storyboards and ideas, fascinating little facts and historic agents’ letters – which all created plenty of interest fro Ian and I – it was also incredibly well thought out with regards to the target children’s audience. There was large scale artwork reproduced on every wall. The old lady’s house from A Squash and a Squeeze, along with large stuffed animals for the children to take in and push out, was standing in one corner. There were reading areas, with well thumbed copies of many books, and interactive exhibits inviting children, for example, to “lift the flap” to find Tiddler and his friends. As part of the exhibition there were also story-telling sessions with associated craft activities.

Best of all, however, we a dressing up area and a backdrop of the deep dark wood. Thomas immediately homed in on this area and dragged out a Gruffalo costume to wear. He loved it so much that we couldn’t easily persuade him out of it, but staff assured us it was fine for him to continue to wear it around the rest of the exhibition. I get the impression that the area is used by school groups to stage stories – and Thomas certainly had a good go at roping me in to be the mouse! It definitely fired up his imagination anew!

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Despite the fact that the exhibition in Kent has now closed, I wanted to share my review in part to share these pictures of my cheeky Gruffalo, but also to encourage anyone living near enough to its next location to consider dropping in. We paid for our own tickets to go, and I haven’t been asked to write a review or compensated in any way – it was just a really good day out. (And we may have ended up buying a half price Gruffalo outfit in Sainsbury’s on the way home!)

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4 Comments

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  1. Carie / Jun 22 2014

    Oh he is just the cutest little Gruffalo! I love that they let him wear it the whole way round, that’s definitely a child friendly exhibition!

    • Caro / Jun 25 2014

      It really was child friendly! Definitely a day that had something for us all.

  2. Amy Robinson / Jun 22 2014

    Ooh. That’s only about 40 mins away from me up in Manchester. I will definitely take Emily – she’d love it!!

    Looks like you had a great day 🙂 x

    • Caro / Jun 25 2014

      We did – and I really hope you guys enjoy it too!

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