New from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler plus a GIVEAWAY

posted in: Axel Scheffler, Julia Donaldson | 143

Picture books by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler will always be deeply entwined in my memories of very early parenthood; alongside sleepless nights and the never-ending attempts to feel like I’d achieved more in a day than simply getting dressed, my first years as a parent were coloured with images and shaped in sound by the superstar picture book creators Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child, Room on the Broom, The Smartest Giant in the Town, Stick Man, Snail on the Whale and Tiddler; I think I can still recite the words to each of these by heart and even though my eldest is now 12 we still play games based on Tiddler when we go to the swimming pool!

And so it’s a special delight to read Donaldson and Scheffler’s newest book together, The Ugly Five, and to see it as a loving nod to early parenthood, a reassuring and funny tale to remind parents that however haggard they feel, however unkempt and grisly they believe themselves to be, their kids will love them through thick and thin, for what matters is not outward appearance but all the kindness and care and simply being there for them.

The Ugly Five – a wildebeest, a warthog, a spotted hyena, a Lappet-Faced Vulture and a Marabou Stork – are introduced one by one to us in true Donaldson style with a strongly rhthmic rhyming text. Each animal believes themselves to be ugly, and their self-confessed descriptions (for example, legs “covered in poo”) will be sure to elicit squeals of disgusted delight from young audiences. As they roam across African landscapes, these Uglies join up to form a band of friends before eventually stumbling across their youngsters. Here the true nature of these animals is revealed; It’s not their looks that matter but rather their actions, and the young animals are quick to sing the praises of their lovely, loving parents. Being kind and caring makes the Uglies magnificent, whatever their outward appearance.

Donaldson’s text is great fun to read aloud and Scheffler’s comic and characterful illustrations are just the right mix of beastly and beautiful. As well as introducing families to some lesser celebrated African animals, thereby broadening horizons at the same time as being heart-warming and humorous, The Ugly Five also aims to raise awareness of Tusk, a charity working in African on project to alleviate poverty, improve education and reduce conflict, making The Ugly Five, making this book a winner on every level.

Inspired by the scene in The Ugly Five, where the animal youngsters pop out from burrows and from behind branches, we created a pull-tab colouring-in card showing a baby stork coming out to play.

We followed the general pull-tab instructions given in these HowCast video tutorials (1, 2) and used them to create this template which you can download, print, colour-in and transform into your own pull-tab scene.

Julia Donaldson actually started her career as a singer and songwriter and has written many songs to go with her books. Whilst there are plans to release a CD with music to accompany The Ugly Five in the future, it hasn’t yet been recorded and so we enjoyed listening to the vultures singing That’s What Friends Are For, from Disney’s The Jungle Book whilst making our pull-tab cards.

A giveaway!

I’m delighted to say I’ve one copy of The Ugly Five to giveaway to a lucky winner.

  • Leave a comment on this blog post to be in with a chance
  • Any UK/Eire address is eligible (sorry, not worldwide, though if you’re outside the UK/Eire and want to nominate family/friends who have a UK/Eire address that’s fine)
  • Tweet about this giveaway to be in with an extra chance of wining the book (don’ forget to leave a link to your tweet as a separate comment). You could use this text for your tweet:
    Win a copy of the new Donaldson/Scheffler picture book, ‘The Ugly Five’ on @playbythebook’s blog http://www.playingbythebook.net/2017/09/04/theuglyfive/ #LoveUgly
  • The giveaway is open for one week. I will draw the winner at 7pm on Monday 11th September. I will contact the winner by email. If I don’t hear back from the winner within one week I will draw a new winner.


  • Good luck!

    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of The Ugly Five by the book’s publisher, Scholastic (Alison Green Books)

    UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed. The winner was Sarah Rees.

    143 Responses

    1. Adrian Bold

      My nephew would love this! Thanks for the great prize and competition. Good luck everyone!

    2. Heather Brannan

      Love Julia Donaldson books – inspiring for young minds. My nephew just loved the crazy charachters .

    3. andrea tinkler

      the illustrations are beautiful. i have a young grand daughter who would cherish this

    4. Emma Davis

      I would absolutely love to win this for the Preschool children I teach. Julia Donaldson is a big favourite of ours.

    5. Laura Corrall

      Ooh I’m so excited. We love so many of their books. Room on the Broom is an absolute favourite of my youngest with my eldest favoring stick man. Thank you for the chance!

    6. Kelly Knowles

      I would adore this for my children, they love reading and Julia Donaldson works, particularly the Gruffalo. Thank you for the kind chance!

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