The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ugly Animals

Exploring the 2020 CBCA Short List: Information Books

A range of animals surrounf the title The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ugly Animals on book cover

Author: Sami Bayley

Publisher: Hachette

Themes: Science, conservation

Years: Australian Curriculum: English, Years 4 and 5; Science, Years 4 and 5. NSW Stages 2 and 3

From the publisher’s synopsis: With more than sixty ugly animals to explore, this compendium of the unusual celebrates the beauty in 'ugliness'. Children and adults alike will pore over the breathtaking scientific illustrations of unusual animals, debating their relative ugliness and merits, learning about science and nature along the way. Featuring illustrations and facts about the thorniest species the animal kingdom has to offer, from the naked mole rat to the goblin shark, aye-aye, sphinx cat, blobfish and many more ‘ugly’ beauties.

Unit writer: Amanda Worlley 

Building field knowledge

  • Look at the definition of encyclopedia and draw students attention to the encyclopedias in your school library. Gather other encyclopedias on a particular topic if available.   
  • The text provides opportunity to discover conservation status of these species. Explore the meaning of endangered and other categories used to classify the conservation status from not evaluated to extinct and display on a chart/continuum. As you encounter species in this text, and others, include their name and image.
  • Create a wall chart with the word adaptation at the top and determine students' understanding of this scientific term. As adaptations of animals are encountered in the text, or wider reading record these for further studies in Science. For example page 85 Naked Mole Rat teeth are on the outside of their mouths which allows them to dig without swallowing dirt. ACSSU043 ACSSU073 ACSSU043  ST2-4LW-S ST3-4LWS

Exploring the context of the text

  • Put the title of the text on the whiteboard and discuss the use of the word ugly.  Read the introduction by the author and note the sentence — Ugliness is, of course, subjective. What do students understand subjective to mean? Explore and discuss this sentence and the rest of the paragraph with them.   
  • Ask students to suggest what they think a natural history illustrator is. Visit the author, Sam Bayly’s website and navigate to Art and show a range of animal and botanical artwork to help students clarify their understanding of the work of a natural history illustrator.

Responding to the text

  • Draw students attention to the word subjective and the term beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the language of opinion. Provide small groups of students with a copy of the text to study closely. Ask students which animals should not have been included in the text, in their opinion, and justify why? ACELT1603 ACELT1609 EN2-11D EN3-2A

Creating texts

  • Tell students they have been invited to include an animal to the encyclopedia. Have students research an animal of their choice using texts from the school library and online resources (National Geographic, Earth Rangers) and use the text structure and cohesive elements of the book to inform their writing. Create a page template using software such as word for students to use to add their information.  ACELY1697 ACELT1798 EN2-3A EN3-2A
  • Have students choose one of the animals in the text and have them write a letter, from the point of view of the animal, to the publisher demanding to be removed from The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ugly Animals. Brainstorm with students first, persuasive and emotive language that relates to this purpose. ACELY1694 ACELY1704 EN2-2A EN3-2A

Examining text structure and organisation

  • Find a range of information texts on similar animal topics for students to compare and contrast the text structure and layout. Does this text need to be read in a linear fashion? Why, why not? How does the predictability of this text organisation help the reader access the information?  ACELA1490 ACELA1504 EN2-8B EN3-3A
  • The organisation of the text is created using cohesive devices. Elements such as sub headings of description, conservation status, diet, location/habitat help organise the information. What other cohesive elements can students identify? ACELA1491 ACELA1496 EN2-4A EN2-8B

Examining grammar

  • The text provides opportunity for students to develop and extend their scientific vocabulary.   Create a vocabulary wall to include words and their meanings as they are encountered in the text and in wider reading (for example, endemic, terrestrial).  ACELA1488 ACELA1501 EN2-1A EN3-1A
  • The fun facts section on pages provide the collective noun for a number of animals for example page 63 a confusion of guineafowl. Create a collective noun vocabulary wall and add to these as you encounter them in the text. Explore with students what may have influenced the collective noun name and the word's origin.  ACELA1500 EN3-4A
  • Choose a chapter, example Helmeted Guineafowl page 65 to examine how texts are made cohesive through the use of pronouns linking back to the subject. Rewrite the page and replace all pronouns with Helmeted Guineafowl. Display both pages on the whiteboard and have students read the newly created page. Which is more coherent and cohesive and why, guiding them to identify the use of pronouns. Highlight the pronouns in the text to assist discussion. Provide groups of students a paragraph from the text to identify pronouns. ACELA1491 EN2-4A

Examining visual and multimodal features

  • The beautiful water colour images provide very detailed representations of the animals. Explore how the author/illustrator has chosen to frame many of these often using a close up, instead of a longer shot that would include the whole body. Offer and demand refers to whether a character is depicted making eye contact or not with the reader. Explore how the author/illustrator uses this technique in many of the illustrations. How does this combination of demand close up help the reader connect to the animal, and why do you think the author/illustrator has chosen this? ACELA1496 EN2-8B
  • The author has also used visual tools to convey information.  Ask students to explain what information they think the silhouettes of a man (or hand) next to a silhouette of the animal is providing.  Is this a good tool to use?  Why, why not? ACELA1491  ACELA1496  EN4-2A EN2-8B

Additional and related resources and links to other texts    Related PETAA units include Phasmid Saving Lord Howe Islands Stick Insect and of interest for the conservation status of some animals, Hollow is a Home. The Author’s Website has a range of illustrations to explore including a broad range of infographics. Publisher Teacher Notes (.pdf 2.45 MB) provide activities and ideas across all curriculum areas. RAN strategy/chart — The Reading and Analysing Non Fiction (RAN) Strategy is an adaption of the popular KWL Strategy by Tony Stead. Five categories are used — what I think I know, confirmed, misconceptions, new information and wonderings. Stead, T (2006) Reality Checks: Teaching Reading comprehension with Non Fiction, K-5. Stenhouse Publishers, Portland. Teachers can preview in Google BooksA Crash of Rhinos by Patricia Mullins is an amusing picture book of collective nouns.

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