As you can imagine the Better Reading office is full of amazing books but The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ugly Animals definitely caught our attention.
At first, we were a bit affronted by these animals being called ‘ugly’ but then when we pored (for a considerable period of time) over the exquisite illustrations that line the pages of The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ugly Animals we realised that author and illustrator Sami Bayly clearly thinks these animals are pretty special.
These weird and wonderful animals may challenge our typical view of beauty but they are often very important to our eco system and Bayly in her work argues that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. By the time you reach the end of this book you will find these 60 very curious looking creatures beautiful too!
Each of the 60 entries ranging from the Amazon river dolphin to the wild turkey includes an illustration, detailed description and details on habitat, diet etc but also covers conservation status and importantly a ‘fun facts’ section for little trivia buffs and budding biologists.
Young readers will spend hours poring over the animals in this collection and may even have spotted a few themselves – think ibis or brush turkey. Some standouts are the largetooth sawfish, naked mole rat, red-lipped batfish, sarcastic fringehead and sea lamprey.
They will also be grilling you with questions such as: Do you know what a painted flutemouth is? Ever hear of the Australian ghost shark? Or did you know the blobfish’s home is 2.5 times deeper than most submarines can reach?
It might be a good idea to take a quick read before you hand it over so you can throw in a few odd details – how about American manatees can feed for up to 8 hours a day? This could also come in handy when it’s difficult getting your little reader to the dinner table!
The illustrations are stunning and it’s easy to see that Bayly is not only an amazingly talented illustrator but extremely passionate about these uglies. This is her first book but she has previously won the Australian Museum Scholarship and it’s worth taking a look at her Instagram and this video here of her drawing a brush turkey for the Australian Museum collection – it’s pretty special and if you know a little illustrator then they will be over the moon to watch her in action.
Teachers, if you are using this to launch discussions in the classroom about a whole raft of things then don’t forget that there will be teachers notes available at Hachette here.
Aside from the illustrations, the book itself – a hard back – would make a great gift and will probably be our go-to Christmas gift for the 8+ reader.
Sami Bayly is a natural history illustrator based in Newcastle, who loves all things weird and wonderful. She finds the beauty and importance of all animals regardless of their appearance, and hopes to share her appreciation with others.
After recently completing her University degree, she is eager to see what the world has instore for her and her quirky subject matter.
The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Ugly Animals is her first book.
To keep up to date you can follow Sami on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/samibayly/