The Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson

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The Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Magda Healey
Reviewed by Magda Healey
Summary: Another winning combination from the Donaldson/Sheffler partnership, known for the mega-popular "Gruffalo"; story of kind giant George teaches that it's not the external appearances that make us happy.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 32 Date: September 2003
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
ISBN: 0333963962

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George is the scruffiest giant in town...and thoroughly fed up with that. When the chance arises to replace his patched old gown and brown sandals for a smart pair of shoes; socks with diamond patterns, smart trousers, white shirt and stripy tie he gladly makes a purchase and promptly replaces his old clothes with this smart set.

On his way home he meets numerous animals suffering from various disasters. Each of them can be helped by one piece of George's new attire so he ends up as a very cold giant indeed and finding the shop closed, resurrects his old gown and his old sandals. However, good deeds do not go unrewarded and surrounded by grateful animals and in his new gold paper crown George is happier than ever.

"Your tie is a scarf to a cold giraffe,
Your shirt's on a boat as a sail for a boat
So here is a very fine crown
to go with the sandals and gown
of the KINDEST giant in town."

The story this is told in prose but still with some of the Donaldson's trademark nicely flowing rhymed sections. The theme and the plot are easy to follow and enjoyable even for a very small child. The classic construction scheme of a children's book, where the character goes through a series of similar experiences only in different guises (in this case George meets various needy animals) is, and rightly so, a favourite with children's Julia Donaldsons simply because children love it (parents perhaps less so on the reading number 167).

The vivid, bold and entertaining illustrations of Axel Sheffler captivate children and the humorous background scenery of a quaint world inhabited by a mixture of giants and normally sized people will hold some interest for adults too.

The moral lesson - it is better to be kind that worry about material possessions and smart appearance is crystal clear and worth repeating in our world where indifferent dowdiness seems to be a moral transgression while worrying about 'what your clothes say about you' is a major preoccupation for many people.

This book is perhaps easier to understand in its entirety for a very small child/toddler than for example "Gruffalo" is, as the story is pretty straightforward and does not involve any language play or social games. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed it at the age of 2.5 when we bought it and we still read it every so often now she's 5. You could probably start with it even before that age depending on the child's interest and level of patience.

Another book by Julia Donaldson, this time with Joel Stewart's illustrations in an entirely different mood is The Magic Paintbrush. Sebastien Braun illustrated Donaldson's Spinderella

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Buy The Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson at


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Dave said:

This is one of few we are yet to purchase in the series. The rhyming our daughter loves but as you say after numerous re-readings (we have Room on a Broom), not so much loved by parents!

Paul said:

I'd agree that the overall story of the Gruffalo is more difficult than this story, but the rhymes and wordplay of the Gruffalo enchanted my oldest from just turning three. The lack of anticipation of words from the prose style of this story meant that he now, at the age of 4.5, only really engaged in the story when the giant's trousers fell down (typical boy!) A good book, but not a patch on the Gruffalo!