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The Three Billy Goats Gruff

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A classic read-aloud favorite addressing bullying retold by acclaimed artist Jerry Pinkney.

Jerry Pinkney puts his indelible stamp on another beloved folktale in the same vein as the Caldecott Medal-winning The Lion & the Mouse and the highly acclaimed The Tortoise & the Hare and The Grasshopper & the Ants.

When the three billy goats Gruff are hungry, they see bountiful grass to eat across an old bridge. But the bridge is home to a terrible troll, who is peckish himself, and looking for a tasty morsel to gobble up. In his interpretation of the timeless tale, Jerry Pinkney shows there's little good to come from greed--but in the end, redemption for even the most trollish bully is possible. A dramatic gatefold heightens the climax of this brilliant rendition.

Don't miss these other classic retellings by Jerry Pinkney:
The Little Mermaid
The Lion & the Mouse
The Tortoise & the Hare
The Grasshopper & the Ants
Little Red Riding Hood
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

40 pages, Hardcover

Published May 9, 2017

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About the author

Jerry Pinkney

118 books239 followers
Jerry Pinkney was an American illustrator and writer of children's literature. Pinkney illustrated more than 100 books, including picture books, nonfiction titles and novels. Pinkney's works addressed diverse themes and were usually done in watercolors. He was the recipient of five Caldecott Honor books and the winner of the Caldecott Medal for The Lion and the Mouse. He also won the Coretta Scott King Award five times, the Coretta Scott King Honor four times, and was nominated for the prestigious international Hans Christian Anderson Award.

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5 stars
253 (34%)
4 stars
321 (43%)
3 stars
135 (18%)
2 stars
22 (2%)
1 star
5 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 158 reviews
Profile Image for Barbara.
12.9k reviews264 followers
June 14, 2017
I simply do not know how this picture book could be improved in any respect. Not only has Jerry Pinkney chosen one of my all-time favorite traditional tales, but he's changed it ever so slightly and then shared his thinking process with readers. Along the way, he prompts readers to think about how to stand up to the bullies in their lives and how they can foster change. Of course, the book tells the story of three billy goats who want to reach greener pastures, but are prevented from doing so by a grumpy old troll. As the first two goats trick him into waiting for a larger goat to serve as his meal, the troll is overcome with gluttony and lets them pass. The largest goat then tosses him into the river where even a large fish isn't interested in eating him. While the goats now can graze to their heart's content, the final illustration and the end papers seem to show that he's no longer living under that bridge or making life miserable for other creatures. Instead, he's shown building a house from stones and even accepting some help from the billy goats. This interpretation really made me stop and think and go, "Hmmm!" Created with pencil and watercolor, the illustrations are rich in detail and utilize some of the elements of cartoon panels with words such as BAM! and SPLASH! appearing across the pages, almost as though they were a part of the action. Not only is this a delightful read aloud, but it contains an important lesson or two for young readers and keeps alive a story that has long been part of the oral tradition of our culture. I'm so glad that Jerry Pinkney gravitates to stories like this one, and I am blown away by the detail in every single image. (Methinks I won't be the only one.)
Profile Image for Tasha.
4,115 reviews102 followers
June 7, 2017
Pinkney continues his foray into classic folktales with this new book. With its focus on fooling a bully, this is a timely tale to tackle. Pinkney uses great skill to whittle the text down to exactly what is needed to carry the story forward. The book is not a reinvention of the original tale, but instead a focused version of the original that will have children cheering the brave goats. Pinkney does add a nice touch to the end with the troll getting harried himself and then rejected in a clever mirror of what he did to the goats.

The illustrations from this Caldecott winning artist are exceptional as always. Pinkney uses pencil and watercolor to create his rich illustrations that have small details, large landscapes and animals. The goats are winsome and courageous while the troll is a vile green with long toenails, tusk-like teeth, and rotting fish and fish skeletons around him.

Another must-have for every library by a master author/illustrator. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Profile Image for Emma.
2,801 reviews351 followers
October 4, 2016
Really great retelling. I really love that Jerry Pinkney also include a note at the end about his interpretive choices and the story. Delightful. Of course.
Profile Image for The Library Lady.
3,550 reviews509 followers
June 28, 2017
The art is, as always, Caldecott worthy, but that said, it's Jan Brett like. And I don't say that as a compliment, but because a lot of her art work is beautiful, but too complex to harmonize with the storytelling.

Let's get onto the storytelling. I have no problem with fracturing fairy tales, or tweaking them, but here Pinkney adds a "moral" tone to this, where the troll might "learn his lesson." Or "redeem himself."

Barf. Stick with the one, the only, the classic Paul Galdone version of this story. His The Three Billy Goats Gruff stays faithful to the original, and the language feels like a good translation from the original Norwegian. How can you tell this story without the immortal:
"Snip, snap, snout, this tale's told out." ?

I certainly can't.
Profile Image for Neeli.
156 reviews2 followers
July 20, 2017
Jerry Pinkney's version of an all-time favourite folk-tale does not disappoint. I enjoyed the fabulous illustrations, the alternate ending and the artist's note at the end of the book. Young children will love to read this book aloud as they will have a chance to dramatize the different sound effects.
Profile Image for AMY.
2,352 reviews
April 13, 2018
Great illustrations for a retelling of an old folktale. There is a different ending as the author explores an alternate handling of a bully. I liked it and think it should spark some discussion. The treatment of the ugly troll was interesting and well-drawn. The author is gifted and expresses lots of emotion through his characters and their renditions on paper. Kids will love this one. Bravo! Highly recommended for Grades 2-5.
October 25, 2022
The Three Billy Goats Gruff is a great folklore for younger children to read. This type of folklore would be consider as a fable because it has a very direct lesson. The lesson that we can learn from this story is from the troll, when we say means words to others we need to recognize it and experience the word-bullying from another point of view. The troll experiences this in The Three Billy Goats Gruff when he gets tossed in the water and is met by the big fish in the water. This story also only focuses on animals and is a very short story that uses informal text with the text being around the illustrations. The spread of this story also helps us, as the readers, recognize what is going on in the story besides reading the words. The Three Billy Goats Gruff is a great book to read to younger children, if you haven't read it yet I recommend that you do!
Profile Image for Cindy Mitchell *Kiss the Book*.
6,001 reviews176 followers
September 23, 2017
Pinkney, Jerry The Three Billy Goats Gruff, 20 pages. Little Brown, 2017. $18. PICTURE BOOK

This is a fairly traditional re-telling of this Norwegian folktale. The three goats try to cross a bridge in order to reach greener pastures, but a nasty hungry troll guards the way. The ending is changed from the traditional story -now the troll learns a valuable lesson indeed and may even make a change for the better. Illustrations are also by the author.

I LOVED this book! It’s a fantastic re-telling! The illustrations are incredible, with a variety of stunning perspectives and adorable goats. I loved the liberties Pinkney took with the ending. This is a great addition for your fairytale and folktales collection. I would add this book to my library in a heartbeat.

EL(K-3) – ESSENTIAL. Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author
Profile Image for Margaret.
2,486 reviews
May 14, 2017
More than one hundred fifty years ago a fairy tale emerged from a far north country. It is a story based on need and greed. The one prompts teamwork to overcome a bully dominated by the other.

Some versions have shown it to be a contest where there are only winners and a loser. The Three Billy Goats Gruff (Little, Brown and Company, May 9, 2017) written and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney asks readers to ponder other possibilities. It extends the "what if" beyond the story's ending.

My full recommendation: http://librariansquest.blogspot.com/2...
36 reviews
November 23, 2018
Reading Level: 2.9

The three goats in The Little Billy Goats Gruff work to make their way across the bridge where the grass is greener and all of their friends reside. The evil troll under the bridge won’t be quick to let them pass, for he is hungry!

This story is a traditional story that has been told for ages as a folklore, making it traditional literature.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff would be a great mentor text for organization. The story has an obvious pattern throughout it as the goats make their way across the bridge. This pattern consists of similar wording each time a different coat crosses. Showing students the importance of saying the exact same thing when using a pattern shows them the correct way of using repetition as a way to organize a story.

This story would also be a logical mentor text for teaching students the importance of word choice. The author uses the phrase “trip trap, trip trap, trip trap,” which really rolls off the tongue and resonates with the reader, far after just finishing the story. This could be an ideal time to teach students about alliteration, and how that can help the flow and the voice of the text, especially when telling a story.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff could also be used to teach a compare and contrast lesson, as there are many different versions of this story.
April 10, 2018
In this story, the goats are tempted to cross the trolls bridge with the promise of lush, green grass on the other side. The troll is portrayed as mean and scary but he unwillingly lets the goats pass by one-by-one only to be scared off the bridge by the biggest goat. The lesson regarding bullying is clear to the reader as the goats each took their turn standing up to the troll and built up courage to overcome his mean actions. The folktale was told in a different way which was successful for the story. The readers are also able to interact with the story in different forms through the imagery or through the dialogue. Pinkney takes a unique approach to the story as he invites the reader to determine the trolls fate. This is an important aspect of the book that invites engagement through unique portrayal of an old tale. Students are sure to relate to this story and will find it even more interesting as they get to make inferences about the ending of the book. Overall, Pinkney’s illustrations and engagement with the audience through the telling of the story make for a successful version of this classic folktale.
Profile Image for Kris.
658 reviews
November 16, 2017
Illustrated in watercolor & pencil

Jerry Pinkney gives his own twist to the classic story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. Very busy illustrations, lots of action and noise - which are appropriate. My favorite elements are the troll and the crow. The troll is SO creepy, adorned with fish bones and fish heads...and the crow often mirrors his actions, such as the double-page spread with the littlest billy goat crossing the bridge and confronting the troll. Both the crow and the troll are in the same position, as if the crow is mimicking the troll (or maybe its the other way around?). And then there is the giant fish - an additional character not found in traditional tellings, but foreshadowed in the troll's fish bone ornamentation. I was kind of puzzled by the addition of the fish, although Pinkney does explain his reasoning for changing up the story. I suppose I'm just a sucker for tradition in traditional stories. Regardless, the artwork is exquisite, thus the 4-star review. Interesting take on one of my favorite stories.
Profile Image for Becky B.
7,262 reviews91 followers
November 2, 2017
Pinkney retells the classic story of a troll, the bridge he guards, and three billy goats who want to cross the bridge.

Hands down this is 1) the best illustrated version of this tale, and 2) the best ending to this tale (which Pinkney added his own twist to...don't miss the end papers!!!). That said, I think Pinkney's troll would have scared me as a child. He is green, and ugly, and has a tail. On the other hand, his goats are so realistic and the littlest one is adorable. Childhood me might have been able to overcome the scary troll for the sake of the cute goats. Don't miss Pinkney's note in the back about how and why he changed the ending. I applaud his reasoning, and love that his ending turns this into a tale in which the bad guy has a change of heart instead of just getting destroyed. Even though there are already tons of Three Billy Goats Gruff books out there, this is still a splendid addition to the book world.
30 reviews
February 21, 2018
Jerry Pinkney's book is very engaging from the timeless story to the intricate illustrations. Pinkney tells a story of three billy goats trying to cross a bridge to get to the green grass of the other side of the river. They cannot cross the river, since there are fish bigger than they are in it! the first two cross individually saying that the next goat will be bigger and much better for the troll, who guards the bridge, to eat. When the third billy goat crosses, he smashes into the troll and the rest of the billy goats friends are able to cross the bridge. One reason that I think this book should have won the Caldecott Medal would be because the illustrations move the book along, even without the words. In the later half of the book, there are multiple 2 page spreads that contain no writing, but are just pictures showing the reader what is happening. I would recommend this book to children ages 7-11.
Profile Image for Alice.
197 reviews
July 12, 2017
Jerry Pinkney never disappoints me--I was so eager to read/experience his interpretation of The Three Billy Goats Gruff. It's a winner. Not a page or space is wasted from front inside cover to end cover there are details to relish and ponder that tell more of the story like the progressions of the illustrations per goat. You'll love the title page--clever use of the bridge and all the characters. The story is mostly traditional and has always been my favorite to story tell. Now with Jerry's new, yet traditional telling, I have a large visual to read aloud that rich in offering children discovery, imagination, detail, surprise, and questioning. Jerry closes with his own notes (I love it when authors/illustrators do this) which help us understand and look deeper into his artistic, soul-infused work.
103 reviews2 followers
September 4, 2018
I really loved this story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff. The illustrations were super detailed and engaging and the story went perfectly well with the photos. In this story, there are three billy goats who need to cross a bridge to get to more land but they have to get away from the troll under the bridge. When the first goat passes, he convinces the troll that he is too skinny and that a bigger goat was coming, so the troll let him pass. The second goat came and he again convinced the troll that a bigger goat was coming. When the third goat came to cross the bridge, the troll said he was going to eat him but the goat was much bigger and stronger than the troll. The goat rammed the troll into the water and a monster was going to eat the troll but he was too green and sour. This book could easily be used in a folktale unit as there are multiple versions of this story out there.
Profile Image for Scott Jordan.
39 reviews
November 8, 2019
Title: The Three Billy Goats Gruff
Author: Jerry Pinkney
Awards: Publisher's Weekly: Best Books of 2017

Summary: Jerry Pinkney delivers and a new version of the classic tale with a new twist to the ending. There is still a greedy troll who bullies Billy Goats and still gets his comeuppance, however in way that might just make him rethink his choices...

Review / Application: This retelling would fall into the category of a genre exploration of Fairy Tales. It may be reviewed with first-grade students for a study of fairy tales. However, it might be more conducive to an exploration of a plot for second-grade students. Identifying the problem, rising action, climax, and resolution would be both fun and an interesting dynamic for this population. An excellent book for a first or second-grade classroom.
49 reviews
May 4, 2017
I love the alternate ending. It is cool to see the troll not only get knocked off the bridge, but also get a taste of his own medicine. I think it gives the story a deeper meaning and will provoke more in depth conversations between the reader and listener. My only complaint is that we are not really told why the fish chooses not to eat the troll. It is stated that the troll was probably "a bit too sour and green" to eat, but how did the fish come to this conclusion? By looking at the troll, or did he taste him and spit him out? Without an illustration to clarify, it feels as though a part of the story is missing. Over all though, it is a great book and I look forward to reading it during a storytime.
Profile Image for Juliana Lee.
2,236 reviews32 followers
June 13, 2017
Reinvented classic story. The three billy goats take turns crossing the troll's bridge to the other side of the river to eat the green grass there. Each one encounters the troll who threatens to eat them and they must use their wits to cross over. When the largest of the billy goats throws the troll into the river, this retelling takes a new turn... this time, the troll encounters a huge fish who threatens to eat him! As the story goes, the goats live happily crossing over the bridge from one side to the other at ease and if you look carefully at the end pages, you will see that the troll escaped the fish and is also living on the mountain building a stone house with the help of the largest billy goat.
50 reviews
November 21, 2017
In this book, there is a river and on one side of the river, there is no green vegetation, it is gruff and rugged, this is where the Billy goats live. On the other side of the river, the grass is green and lushes and the sun is always shinning. However, there is troll under the bridge that does not let creatures pass through. Three Billy goats outsmart the troll and ram him off the bridge allowing for the rest of their Billy goat friends to follow to the green side of the river. There are many variations of this book which makes it a great way to introduce folk tales. Jerry Pinkney does an outstanding job with the illustrations, which students love to look at. You can never go wrong with one of his books.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
1,980 reviews52 followers
November 21, 2018
I love this gorgeous rendition of a traditional favorite! Troll gets a taste of his own medicine. In the end note, Jerry Pinkney tells us, "I invented the character of the giant fish to offer a way for the troll to recognize what he'd done to others and to experience his word-bullying from another point of view." Further, later on in the note he says, "Ultimately it was only my imagination, however, that could invent the characters of these ever-so-relatable billy goats Gruff. They are, like many of us, both meek and at the same time strong in the face of adversity...and they must work together to 'stand up to the bullies' and be a force of change." c) 2017
240 reviews1 follower
August 18, 2017
Love what Jerry Pinkney did to modernize this tale and add a different ending than the victim resorting to violence. In Pinkney's version, "Readers can still cheer for the underdogs -- even when the troll gets his due--but careful observation of the endpaper art may be left with the sense that there could be a turning point in this relationship. ....Has the troll learned his lesson? Does he redeem himself? Is forgiveness an option for the goats? Can these characters ever have a peaceful coexistence?"
Profile Image for Sarah.
3,267 reviews
November 9, 2017
Another beautifully done folktale by Pinkney. He changes the ending of the story a bit to give the troll a chance at redemption. I do remember my grandma reading me Ellen Rudin's version The Three Billy Goats Gruff when I was little, and I think the new ending didn't sit well with my fond memories. However, what he did was very noble- giving the troll a chance and all that...

As usual with his folktales, don't forget to check the end pages!
Profile Image for Amy Layton.
1,641 reviews48 followers
December 28, 2017
Jerry Pinkney is probably one of the most talented watercolor artists I've seen.  There's just something about his art that is beautiful and realistic and fun all at the same time.  Pinkney is also one of the most masterful story retellers I've seen--everything he writes is just so genuine and pure, especially as it relates to the source material in regards to children today.  I can easily see why this is a contender for the Caldecott.

Review cross-listed here!
October 13, 2022
This twist on a classic tale is a great book for children. It depicts a mean ole bully who in the end gets a taste of his own medicine. I really liked Pinkney's twist on the story with the big fish at the end to offer a way for the troll to recognize what he'd done to others. It gives the readers the ability to ask questions like: Has the troll learned his lesson? Can the goats ever forgive the troll? Do you think the troll will end up being friends with the goats and live with them? This are important questions for children's everyday lives and in the world at large.
Profile Image for Zan Porter.
315 reviews
May 11, 2017

As usual, Pinkney's beautiful illustrations add dimension to the classic folktale. What makes this different from the traditional story is the slight twist to the story, leaving it open for the troll to learn his lesson and receive redemption. An artist's note makes reference to the need to bravely stand up to bullies - the "trolls" we might run into in real life. The dedication of the book also made me smile: "To all of my fellow Capricorns." :)
Profile Image for Carol  V.
561 reviews12 followers
May 22, 2017
The Three Billy Goats Gruff has been one of my all-time favorite stories. I read it many times as a child, and years later, I shared the story with my children and students. Jerry Pinkney shares this Norwegian tale of the 1800s with the same sense of humor, fright, and suspense, but he also showcases anti-bullyism, facing consequences, living by the golden rule, and forgiveness! The illustrations are filled with wonder and emotion! A must read!
577 reviews5 followers
July 17, 2017
I have mixed emotions about the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff, viewing it as a bit of a violent saga, without much redeeming virtue.

PInkney seems to recognize this, and if you look closely at the endpaper you will see how the goats are cooperating with the troll, so maybe the troll learned his lesson.

of course, just great illustrations, and a familiar, yet slightly modified storyline.
Profile Image for Linda .
3,613 reviews39 followers
November 10, 2017
Sinking into Jerry Pinkney's illustrations is something I like to do, and knowing the original story only enhances the enjoyment of this one. Pinkney has imagined a different story here, with a little bit more thoughtful comeuppance for the troll bully, and a lesson to discuss with readers. The story cleverly begins and ends in the endpapers, meaning 'more' story. I enjoyed this old fairy tale a lot!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 158 reviews

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