Review of The Three Billy Goats Gruff: The FULL Story

The Three Billy Goats Gruff: The FULL Story
by Richard Jackson; illus. by Katherine Tillotson
Preschool, Primary    Dlouhy/Atheneum    48 pp.    g
9/20    978-1-4814-1573-6    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-1574-3    $10.99

It’s “the FULL story” of the classic tale of the three billy goats and the menacing troll, or what late author Jackson calls “the story, like all stories, of Who Wants What…and Do They Get It?” Jackson changes nothing about the plot; we still meet three goats who, in order to graze on grass on the other side of a bridge, outwit a troll, but he gives it new life in this spirited text. The tone is chummy (“SO…here are the Brothers Gruff,” it begins) in a text that directly addresses readers: “Just look at him,” Jackson writes when we first meet Troll. The story is filled with entertaining asides (“Here’s the famous part,” we read before Big Billy head-butts Troll); rhythmic language that uses repetition to great effect (the usual “trip-trap,” but Jackson throws in some “mutt-muttering” from Troll and some “please and kindly” phrasing to remind readers that politeness goes a long way); and lots of alliteration (“Our biggest brother, Big Billy…is a meal-worthy mouthful compared to middling me”). Changes in font size animate the pages, and the book’s vocabulary will delight readers with words such as gnarly, modicum, and ferocious. Tillotson’s remarkably textured illustrations match the energy of the tale, and she brings playful perspectives (from both under and atop the rickety bridge). An immensely entertaining retelling, trip-trap!

From the March/April 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson writes about picture books at the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. She also writes for Kirkus Reviews and BookPage and is a lecturer for the School of Information Sciences graduate program at the University of Tennessee. Her book Wild Things!: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, written with Betsy Bird and Peter D. Sieruta, was published in 2014.

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