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The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Mac Barnett Book Review

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Mac Barnett

You’ve read or heard the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff many times, and you’ve seen many book versions. Each time, the illustrations and wording are your standard ones with little variation. Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen have set a new standard for the fairytale genre with this new edition of the hundreds year old story.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff Book Review

This legendary team have taken their individual talents and created a synergy that will delight kid and adult readers alike whether they know the original fairytale or not.

The Story

Mac Barnett has taken a story that he himself states has been retold for over 200 years, before picture books were ever invented. Tongue-in-cheek, he says that some may disagree with him about this, but they’re wrong. What he does with his words is take the original tale and add much much more that kids will laugh at, and educators will be able to really dig into.

The first and most prominent difference is the story’s focus on the troll. He goes into hilarious detail about what it’s like for the troll under the bridge and why he’s so hungry. He considers eating his own earwax! Ewww!

We next find out that the troll is quite the foodie counting the many ways he could eat each goat in a Bubba from Forrest Gump style but seemingly far more gentile, despite being a troll. As he names the many ways he could prepare the goat, the reader also finds out that this troll, despite being quite disgusting, is a poet. This troll names the different goat dishes in rhyme. This is really idea for younger readers who are learning about rhyming, and it also allows any adult to ask the child about how they would describe the troll.

Most other versions of the Three Billy Goats Gruff tale make the troll a very one dimensional character, and Barnett’s storytelling elevates him into something more hilarious, slightly pitiable, though still unlikeable.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff Book Trailer from Scholastic

The Illustrations

The illustrations are the next major difference between the standard Billy Goats Gruff story and this new retelling. Caldecott Medal-winner Jon Klassen, in his instantly-recognizable style takes Barnett’s story and gives the words the illustrations a tale this classic deserves.

No more your generic goat and bridge illustrations. Now we have the emotion and detail missing from all the other versions. We get the gritty detail of what it’s like beneath the bridge right on the cover. Complete with a hanging skull and the troll holding fork and spoon.

Klassen also adds in the hilarious detail of the Big Billy Goat Gruff literally being a giant goat. Many times larger than the troll. Kids will be rolling seeing the troll’s reaction to the last goat.


Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen team up again for another instant classic book! This book is a must-have for any library or classroom where fairy tales are studied. The book is just a delight to read aloud. Grades Kindergarten through 3rd grade will really enjoy this story the most.

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Hey there! I’m Josh from Picture Book Brain here to share only the best literature for you to use with your students. If you are looking for a specific book, use the search bar below to check my archives. Glad you’re here, and glad to help you!

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