The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Ugly Animals by Sami Bayly

Inside the CBCA Shortlist

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Ugly Animals (Lothian Children’s Books) is a fascinating and beautifully designed book that is garnering enthusiastic response from young and older readers, as well as in book awards.

Natural history illustrator Sami Bayly has selected animals that seem to be ugly but she has found beauty in their ugliness while studying and painting them. She explains that their ‘ugly’ characteristics have a purpose and laments that many of these species are endangered.

Each land and marine creature features over a double page – a full-page painting alongside a page of writing about the animal’s description, location in the world and diet. Conservation status and fun facts are included. Black and white sketches elaborate certain details, and the animal’s size compared with a human is shown in silhouette.

I particularly enjoyed the Australian animals, beginning with the Australian Brush-turkey. It is such a strange-looking bird, with its wrinkled wattle neck pouch and infuriating habit of digging up gardens. One local specimen even chases the dogs that walk along its street. Brush-turkeys are not endangered!

The Australian Ghost Shark is often eaten as fish and chips; the Australian White Ibis is also called a bin chicken, trash turkey and flying rat and the Southern Cassowary is brightly coloured, has a helmet and is the heaviest non-flying Australian bird.

What could a Sarcastic Fringehead be? (page 107) Take a guess which has been voted ugliest animal (page 37) and which dog often wins ugliest dog contests (page 56)?

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Ugly Animals is currently shortlisted for the Australian Design Awards and Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards. It has already won best children’s book in the Indie Book Awards 2020.

Congratulations also to Favel Parrett for winning the 2020 Indie Book Awards Book of the Year for There Was Still Love (Hachette Australia). I have reviewed There Was Still Love on the blog.

Congratulations to the other Indies winners, especially Wai Chim for her Young Adult novel The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling. My interview with Wai Chim is on the blog.

Sami Bayly has a website http://www.samibayly.com/ and is on Instagram and Twitter @SamiBayly

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