A Royal Mail stamp issue on October 10 marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of The Gruffalo, the popular children’s picture book written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

Initially published in 1999 as a 32-page hardback, aimed at readers aged three to seven, the story was only about 700 words long and written in rhyming couplets. With later paperback and board book editions, it became an international best-seller.

More than 14 million copies have been sold, with translations into 81 languages. A sequel, The Gruffalo’s Child, was published in 2004, and the original story was turned into an animated short film in 2009.

The set of six counter-sheet stamps has designs based on the book illustrations, mirroring the original tale. Its two se-tenant strips of three work as a chronological storyboard if you consider the £1.60 values first and the 1st class values second.

Scheffler was commissioned by Royal Mail to create a brand new illustration for the accompanying miniature sheet, which brings together all the characters in a composite artwork.

Designed by the Rose agency, the issue was printed in litho by International Security Printers, the individual stamps in sheets of 60 divided into two panes of 30.

£1.60 A mouse took a stroll

A mouse journeys into the deep, dark wood, only to meet a series of potential predators.

£1.60 Roasted fox!

The mouse avoids being eaten by a fox by claiming to be meeting the gruffalo, a figment of his imagination. ‘He has terrible tusks, and terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws.’ His favourite food is roasted fox...

£1.60 Owl ice cream?

The mouse avoids being eaten by an owl by claiming to be meeting the gruffalo. ‘He has knobby knees and turned-out toes, and a poisonous wart at the end of his nose.’ His favourite food is owl ice cream...

1st class Scrambled snake!

The mouse avoids being eaten by a snake by claiming to be meeting the gruffalo. ‘His eyes are orange, his tongue is black, he has purple prickles all over his back.’ His favourite food is scrambled snake...

1st class Gruffalo crumble!

After escaping these predators, to his surprise the mouse encounters a gruffalo, looking exactly as he had imagined it. To avoid being eaten by the gruffalo, he claims that he is the most feared creature in the wood. To prove this, he invites the gruffalo to follow him through the wood, and the gruffalo is impressed by the fact that every predator they meet hurries away. Eventually the mouse threatens to eat the gruffalo, which runs away too.

1st class All was quiet in the deep dark wood

The mouse is left in peace by all the other creatures, eating a nut at his leisure.

 

MINIATURE SHEET

1st class Owl

The owl reacts in alarm to the sight of the gruffalo.

£1.55 Snake

The snake reacts in alarm to the sight of the gruffalo.

£1.55 Fox

The fox reacts in alarm to the sight of the gruffalo.

1st class Mouse

The mouse looks on knowingly.

 

OTHER PRODUCTS

The presentation pack contains an exclusive snakes-and-ladders game, pop-out characters to play it with, and an interactive exercise entitled ‘How well do you know the gruffalo?’

Along with stamp cards and a first day cover, there is a choice of two coin covers. A press sheet of 16 uncut miniature sheets is available in a limited edition.

 

PRICES

Set of 6 stamps   £6.90

Miniature sheet   £4.50

Presentation pack   £12.20

Stamp cards   £4.95

Press sheet   £79.20

First day cover (stamps)   £8.90

First day cover (mini sheet)   £6.00

Coin cover   from £17.50

 

VERDICT

COMMEMORATIVE WORTH   1/5

It’s a very popular book, but does a 700-word story really merit 10 stamps?

QUALITY OF DESIGN   2/5

Although the illustration is perfect for a picture book, many will consider it puerile for a stamp issue

WOW FACTOR   2/5

Young collectors raised on the story may love the set, while few adults will be moved