The Gruffalo is a pretty big phenomenon. The first time I came across it was a large, and what I thought was very scary, wall mural. This was painted across the wall of the nursery where my best mate's twins were sleeping. Not exactly the sort of fluffy bunnies you might expect for babies, and at the time I thought she was rather mad!
Now I too love the large, orange eyed warty monster. But not as much as my son, who loves reading and re-reading the two books we have, The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo's Child. So what about some of the merchandising then? This product, The Gruffalo Word Rhyming Game from University Games, is about the right size for a stocking filler, and isn't made of plastic. So that's a double yay then!
The recommended retail price is £4.99. The game is available on Amazon at the time of writing for £3.99, delivered free with super saver delivery.
PlayPennies mum of three, Melanie, gave the game a try out for us. "You get a really sturdy box that's nicely illustrated. Inside, about a third of the box is just a cardboard bit of packaging, which feels a bit of a cheat. There's two packs of cards in there, wrapped in cellophane. I thought maybe the cardboard could be used to keep the two packs separated when the wrapping came off, but I couldn't really see how that might work."
You get two games in the box. There are 24 rhyming cards, 6 mouse cards, 2 Gruffalo cards and 21 cards for the bonus game. The bonus game is called There's No Such Thing as a Gruffalo. "The illustrations on the cards are quite lovely," says Melanie. "They're also fairly stiff and large enough for little hands to get a good grip on them. I would have preferred them to be a bit sturdier, it didn't take too long for a few creases to start showing unfortunately."
All the characters from the story of the Gruffalo are depicted. The games aim, according to the manufacturer, to enhance reading, rhyming and colour matching. Also, they have been designed so readers and non-readers can play.The way this works with the Word Rhyming Game is that the cards are all colour coded by word set. Non-readers can use this and match colours rather than rhyming words.
"Non-readers can still play these games, but at least one person has to be able to read the rules! I actually found this quite hard. The Word Rhyming Game is simple enough. But the bonus game, There's No Such Thing As A Gruffalo, was a lot harder to figure out. Especially with three little faces waiting impatiently to get started! Plus it is a strategy game, or at least it is meant to teach them strategy, but they just didn't understand the concept and I couldn't figure out how to explain it properly. "
The aim of the bonus game is to be the first player to collect all five cards in a 'family' ie mouse, fox, snake, owl and squirrel. On each turn, a player has two options. They can either take a card from the centre of the table or take a card from another player. The player will then have six cards in their hand.If they have a mouse, fox, snake, owl or squirrel card of the same colour they are the winner. If not, then they must discard a card.
"Which was a bit ambiguous for me! It sounded like all you had to do was get two animals with the same colour, and we played it like that but it was a bit easy and didn't seem to have much strategy to it."
She found that things were a bit clearer on the website. There it explains that "this game is a race to be the first to collect cards of all five characters from the story in the same colour: the Mouse, Fox, Snake, Owl and Squirrel."
"Apart from me being dense about the rules to a simple children's card game, overall I really liked this. It seems like you get a pretty good deal for a fiver. The cards look lovely, and it feels nice giving a present or a stocking filler that isn't made of plastic. "
And Finally ...
University Games has been around for quite a while. Here's a couple of interesting facts I found out about the company! First, it was founded on April Fools day, 1985, in San Francisco, by Cris Lehman and Bob Moog. Second, they invented the well known game 21 Questions, which was licensed by game giant Milton Bradley.