The Ugly Five

illus. by Axel Scheffler. 32p. Scholastic. Jul. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338249538.
PreS-Gr 2—This rhyming book takes place on the African plain and introduces a collection of animals not known for attractiveness, but beloved by their children nonetheless. It begins with an introduction to the wildebeest, and she soon sings a song that is repeated with variations throughout the book, "I'm the ugly one, I'm the ugly one. I'm the ugliest animal under the sun. My ungainly appearance is second to none. I'm the ugly one, I'm the ugly one." Wildebeest meets up with spotted hyena, lappet-faced vulture, warthog, and marabou stork, and the song reflects each addition. Scheffler is a frequent artist for Donaldson and has the perfect approach for her lighthearted prose. The "ugly" beasts are not ugly at all, but endearing, with wide-eyed faces expressing playfulness while picking through garbage, crunching bones, shredding carrion, and wallowing in mud. Comical illustrations in bright, but natural colors, are unadorned by text or borders. Each features a natural habitat with plenty of creatures and small details for observant eyes to seek. The satisfying and happy ending for the actually "lovely five" is depicted in a richly hued spread. Safari notes follow the story, which is prefaced by an author's note.
VERDICT Playful and positive, this book is an introduction to creatures of the African plain and a reminder that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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