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The Gruffalo

Back when I was a class teacher, whenever there was a free moment in the classroom, the children would request a reading of The Gruffalo. I even attempted all the different voices to use for each animal in the book!! (There are a lot!)

As a lover of children’s books, I enjoy finding and exploring the lovely and important messages they share with their readers. If you have not read The Gruffalo, it is a fantastically written rhyming story about the adventures of a very brave and confident mouse who took a stroll through the deep dark woods…

Of course, every animal you meet in this book would like nothing more than to enjoy eating this little brown mouse, who does all he can to ensure that doesn’t happen.

The message I took from this book was very simple: bravery can help you overcome a tricky obstacle you might be facing. The best part of this story comes when the mouse (having bragged to the animals in the wood that he is friends with the “imaginary” Gruffalo), discovers that the Gruffalo is actually real after all!

“But who is this creature with terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws…oh help…oh no…it’s…..a Gruffalo!”

The mouse then bravely walks back through the forest with the Gruffalo, and manages to escape being eaten by all the animals. By the end of the book, he can declare that he, in fact, “Is the scariest creature in this wood”.

This is the sort of story that can only work as a children’s book. We all cheer when the mouse’s inventiveness works out for him, whereas we’d be less likely to approve of a human making up stories to get out of trouble.

However, it reminds me that there are times in life that we are faced with situations that require us to be brave. Whether it is bravely supporting a friend or loved one going through an illness, or dealing with a new challenge at work or in your personal life. If you are facing a situation that is causing you to be fearful, try asking yourself what in particular you are afraid of, what might happen, what are the risks, and whether you have felt this way before?

We often think that someone who is brave is someone who does not fear, but in fact, it is just the opposite of that. Bravery is about acknowledging and accepting how you are feeling, especially if it is something out of your comfort zone. The brave person doesn’t let their emotions shut them down.

Our emotions can become very overwhelming and it is important to be able to regulate them and understand that they are not always rational. Sometimes our emotional responses to situations are due to past experiences or memories. Being able to process an emotional response to a current situation can help by reducing the amount of emotion – allowing you to find the bravery that is there underneath.

It is ok to feel frightened and worry about things, but what you do with that fear and worry is really important. The mouse was frightened of the dark wood, but didn’t let that stop him going to get the tasty nut. I am fearful of flying, in part due to some heavy turbulence on a flight many years ago, but by remembering the other flights I have had that have been totally fine helps me find the inner strength to get on a plane each time.

The Gruffalo is a simple and thoughtful story that encourages everyone (however tall they are), to step out and face the challenges ahead of them.

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