Axel Scheffler on his new book with Julia Donaldson

Axel Scheffler on his new book with Julia Donaldson

Illustrator Axel Scheffler talks to us about his latest picture book collaboration with Julia Donaldson, The Ugly Five, which celebrates some of the more reviled safari animals:

How did The Ugly Five come about?

Julia [Donaldson] went on a trip to South Africa and did a safari where she saw the 'Big Five' game animals (the African lion, the African elephant, the Cape buffalo, the African leopard and the rhinoceros) and lots of other animals, including the 'Ugly Five' (the hyena, the wildebeest, the vulture, the warthog and the marabou stork), and that inspired her to write the story.

How closely do you collaborate with Julia when you work on a book together?

I never know what the next book is about. She comes up with the idea and I just get sent the text and start illustrating it.

Did you do much research about the animals before drawing them?

I used reference books and Google – but Google doesn’t have everything! I couldn’t find images of some of the younger animals included in the book.

How did you decide on the look of the animals?

We talked about whether to exaggerate their features and make the characters look more comical, but I thought it would be nice to keep them close to their natural look.

How do you create your illustrations?

I do a pencil sketch first, then I use a metal dip pen for the outline of the drawings. I paint everything and use colour pencils on top. There are a lot of layers!

The Ugly Five by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler is published by Scholastic on 7th September.