A Review of ‘The Ugly Five’ and ‘Zog and the Flying Doctors’ by Julia Donaldson

We have always enjoyed reading books to Ava; from when she was really little, to now when she likes to try to join in and read bits herself. Books written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler have always been a big part of that – we’ve always loved the Gruffalo (I’m pretty sure I bought the book when I was pregnant as I was so excited to read it to my child), and it’s still a firm favourite today, along with the brilliant film version, and we have loads of the others too.

So we’re always excited when they bring out new books, or we discover one of the older ones we haven’t read before. Until I was writing this post I had no idea how long Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler had been making children’s books – The Gruffalo came out in 1999 and A Squash and a Squeeze in 1993! I guess I must only have become aware of them as I got closer to becoming a mother, but I thought they were much more recently published. I absolutely adore The Gruffalo, and love reading the book in the same style and voice of the film, and Ava’s always loved it too. The films (The Gruffalo’s Child also has a film version) are done brilliantly and I just think they are perfect and thoroughly endearing. I actually really enjoy watching them.

Over the years I have bought so many of these books as presents for other children, as well as giving one as part of a present to each of the children at my wedding – that’s how much I love them. They’re always beautifully rhyming with brilliant illustrations, plus they’re usually a really good price on Amazon.

Julia and Axel have just brought out two new books – ‘Zog and the Flying Doctors’ in paperback, and ‘The Ugly Five’, and we’ve been lucky enough to be sent them.

Zog and the Flying Doctors

Zog and the Flying Doctors has just this month been published in paperback, after being the UK’s no.1 new picture book in 2016.

“Meet the Flying Doctors: Princess Pearl, Sir Gadabout and their trusty ‘air ambulance’, Zog the dragon. They soar over the countryside, tending to sunburnt mermaids, sneezy lions and distressed unicorns. But when the king falls ill, can the Flying Doctors save him?”

The book is a sequel to Zog, which we have read but don’t own, and we very much enjoyed the sequel. Reading the rhymes out loud is lovely and the repetition of the ‘Bang-crash-thump they landed’ gives it a familiarity that kids love, even after just the first time of reading it – Ava was joining in by the end, and enjoyed discussing what was happening the whole way through. The stories get in your head, but in a good way, and after reading the book again just now, I feel like I need to be writing this as a rhyming verse and am struggling not to!

Zog and the Flying Doctors made us both laugh out loud and it’s a nice simple story with a powerful female role model, who is a not your typical Princess. I like the underlying message that is weaved into the story, and it’s perfect for lots of different ages. The book was launched in partnership with Readathon, the charity who gets books and storytellers into hospitals, which I love.

I feel like that about most of Julia Donaldson’s books actually; that they can be read to young toddlers who will love the rhyme, the pictures and the fun characters, as well as older children of school age who may think about the storyline more. Since Ava has started school and started to read I have wondered if these kind of books are a little young for her now. But I don’t think they are. They are a good level for her to have a go at reading them herself, and they’re complex enough for her to enjoy us reading them together, and perhaps learn something from, as well as opening up lots of discussions, and I’m sure they still will be for a while.

The Ugly Five

The Ugly Five is a brand new book out this month – the latest classic picture book from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, and we absolutely loved it.

“Meet Wildebeest and Warthog, Spotted Hyena, Lappet-Faced Vulture and Marabou Stork. People call them the Ugly Five… but are they really?”

This is such a lovely and fun book to read and I think it will become another favourite. I did have a bit of an ‘ah crap’ moment when I realised I needed to sing parts of it, but it just adds to the fun and Ava really loved singing the chorus each time. I love the moral of the story and it’s a great lesson for kids, showing them that it’s what’s inside that counts – our actions, and not what we look like that is important. It’s also a pretty lovely message to parents too – our kids couldn’t care less about what we look like, they love us for just being there for them and loving them.

It really is a joy to read and at the same time is great for teaching children about the different types of animals – especially with the pages at the end of different animals that you might find on safari. I even learnt something, with quite a few I had never heard of!

I love the descriptions of the characters in the book, they are fun to read out loud and funny to hear, and Ava loved them. She particularly loved the mention of the legs of the Marabou Stork being covered in poo! I have no idea why kids find poo so hilarious but they do and it adds a bit more entertainment in the story.

Axel’s detailed illustrations are great too and Ava loved pointing out the bits we were talking about and naming the animals pictured. The pictures bring the words to life and have lots of things to discuss (which Ava doesn’t stop doing!). She’s always been so interested in animals, and knows more about them than me, so this book is perfect for her. The Ugly Five aims to raise awareness of Tusk – the charity that supports people and wildlife of Africa, to alleviate poverty, improve education and reduce conflict.

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s books are utterly charming and fun to read, and never fail to engage children with their delightful rhymes and thoughtful illustrations. We love snuggling up before A’s bedtime and reading together, and these two books are great additions to our vast collection of lovely children’s books by the duo.

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.

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