“Who is this creature with terrible claws
and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws?
He has knobbly knees and turned out toes anda poisonous wart
at the end of his nose.His eyes are orange, his tongue is black,
he has purple prickles all over his back.”
As key people in children’s lives, we naturally want to instill in them the skills required to evade danger. They have to look both ways before crossing the street, wear seatbelts in the car and a helmet while riding their bikes. These are fine uses of being prepared for the worst, but some situations call for thinking fast on ones toes. Moments of potential danger, that are difficult to create real life scenarios for kids to practice such encounters.
Years ago in the city I grew up in, a young girl was abducted, however because of her quick thinking she was able to escape. When the man who abducted her left the house where she had been duct taped to a chair, she managed to struggle free of the tape, call the authorities and using a piece of mail she found lying on the counter, told the dispatcher over the phone the name and address of her captor.This quick thinking saved her life.
I’ve always admired people who are able to use ingenuity to avoid their own demise, but I’ve always been at a loss as to how best to teach this skill to kids. At the very least, teaching ways to employ cleverness as a life-saving skill isn’t the easiest thing to do.
Written the tradition of Aesop’s Fables, the story of “The Gruffalo” by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Alex Scheffler, is a tale of using cleverness to escape a foe. In this case, that of a mouse who while walking in the woods tricks predators like foxes, snakes and owls out of eating.
The mouse deceives the carnivores bent on dining on his mouse parts by threatening them with the bigger, bad guy headed their way. Mouse describes the most terrifying creature he can imagine.A monster with sharp claws, orange-colored eyes and a back covered in purple pickles… the dreaded Gruffalo. The ruse works like a charm until mouse himself encounters the beast he had supposed he created himself.
Mouse must endeavor to use his most brilliant tricks yet or avoid becoming dinner for yet another would-be mouse-eater.Stories like these have taught kids the inherent dangers of the world for ages. In fact, themes from “The Gruffalo” echo the customary Chinese fable of the fox and the tiger.
While stories like “The Gruffalo” are entertaining, engaging and make for a great read, they also teach kids a subtle lesson…that being cognizant of danger and using whatever means necessary to escape plan are not just witty pieces of fiction. Whether it is outwitting a schoolyard bully, or a mythical beast, ultimately kids learn from “the Gruffalo” that cleverest of kids are at an advantage in any situation.