Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Children’s Book Review, The Ugly Five

by Susan Stephenson,

The Ugly Five is a children’s picture book written by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler and published by Scholastic (2017.) RRP: $Au 24.99 HB.  I have previously reviewed Donaldson’s What the Ladybird Heard on Holiday, The Scarecrow’s Wedding, and The Everywhere Bear.

From the publisher:

Who's that singing on the savanna? It's the top-five ugly animals in Africa!

The wildebeest, warthog, vulture, hyena and marabou stork swagger proudly across the savanna, rejoicing in their ugliness–and delighting their babies, who think they're perfect just the way they are.

Inspired by the real-life Ugly Five safari animals, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's brand-new picture book is a jubilant celebration of animals who are often rather unloved. The funny, heart-warming rhyme is a joy to read aloud, while bold, comical illustrations bring the savanna spectacularly to life.

There are lots of opportunities for performance built around this book. We meet five creatures who are not only remarkably ugly, but relish their ugliness. They joyfully sing about themselves.  These songs are rhyming, very funny, and cleverly teach us about each animal. There’s also a delightful and heartwarming ending that shows us just why Donaldson is held in such high esteem as a children’s author.

The illustrations add tremendous energy and detailed visuals to The Ugly Five. Scheffler has worked on a lot of books with Donaldson, The Gruffalo probably being the most famous. Scheffler’s trademark comic style is also much in evidence in his book, Flip Flap Safari, which I reviewed here. I find it fascinating to gain insights into an artist’s creative process, and enjoyed reading about Scheffler’s projects in The Guardian.

The Ugly Five would make a great text model, and an ideal choice for reader’s theatre. I know clever teachers will help children turn it into a funny and entertaining full-scale performance. I can see the glee with which young performers will chant about their fearsome ugliness, and I’m already picturing the costumes and make-up they will embellish themselves with!

I’ll be adding The Ugly Five to my list of Children’s Picture Books with Strong Rhyme and Rhythm.

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