Monster success: The Gruffalo is best bedtime story

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The Independent Culture

Didn't you know? ... the nation's favourite bedtime story was yesterday revealed to be The Gruffalo. Although the black tongue, orange eyes and poisonous wart on the end of its nose might be enough to induce nightmares, Radio 2 listeners declared it was the best story for children heading to the Land of Nod.

The Gruffalo, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, has sold more than four million copies worldwide since it was published a decade ago.

The tale of a mouse who outsmarts a wood-dwelling scary monster, it drew a fifth of the votes, beating runner-up Winnie the Pooh and, in third place, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Jeremy Vine, who hosted the poll on his lunchtime show, said: "I'm going to come clean – it's my favourite, too. Julia Donaldson is the Shakespeare of children's writers, and the funny thing about her is that, because The Gruffalo only came out 10 years ago, there are many, many people who haven't even clocked that Britain has this genius in its midst.

"It's not just The Gruffalo – it's everything she has written. I am a massive fan, but I'm happy to take my place behind about 500,000 British children."

Other books on the shortlist included Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Where the Wild Things Are.

The Gruffalo has been adapted by BBC1 – with Robbie Coltrane in the title role – and will be screened at Christmas.

Vine said: "For an adult, The Gruffalo takes 90 seconds to read. For a child it's a beautiful, funny, suspenseful tale of a clever mouse and a rather-lovely-but-just-a-bit-scary monster – with a twist that Agatha Christie would have been proud of." Vine has been discussing the eight shortlisted stories – whittled down from a long list of 36 – with former children's laureate Michael Rosen throughout the week.

Radio 2 controller Bob Shennan said: "It's been fantastic to hear from so many Radio 2 listeners this week. Social action is an important part of BBC Radio 2's public-service commitment, and this poll has been the perfect way for the audience to interact with the network."