Julia Donaldson has been on safari and the happy result is this humorous celebration, not of the usual, glamorous ‘Big Five’ animals of the African plains, but rather of a motley group of the ‘ugliest’ animals of the continent. These are ‘The Ugly Five’, Wildebeest, Warthog, Spotted Hyena, Lappet-Faced Vulture and Marabou Stork. Julia Donaldson deploys her characteristic and accomplished rhyming text to depict these five creatures joining forces to proudly celebrate their own ugliness as they march across the savannah singing their song. In a satisfying and heart-warming ending the ugly gang of five are confronted by their own babies who proceed to thank them for their love and care and proclaim them ‘the Lovely Five’.
Julia Donaldson’s brilliant, rhyming text reads aloud as perfectly as ever, there is a great sense of fun and brio as the animals, and birds, positively revel in their own supposed ugliness. Axel Scheffler’s illustrations, full of witty expression and detail, depict the African landscape beautifully and complement the text impeccably.
The book does convey messages about not judging by appearance and the strength of family love. There is also a conservation theme via the link with “Tusk”, a charity that supports the people and wildlife of Africa whilst the final double page spread gives the chance to learn about many more African animals. As ever though, the lasting effect of a Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler collaboration is to pass on a sense of fun and warm-hearted humour and to give children and adults alike a completely satisfying reading experience.