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The Ugly Duckling (Caldecott Honor Book) Hardcover – March 24, 1999


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Three-time Caldecott Honor artist and four-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, Jerry Pinkney doesn't disappoint with this lovely, old-fashioned, richly textured watercolor adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Ugly Duckling. The mother duck knew from the very beginning that one of her babies would be different from the rest... the sixth egg was large and oddly shaped. When it finally hatches that summer, she thinks the "monstrous big duckling" must be a turkey chick! Other ducks are appalled by the ugly duckling, and he is chased, pecked, and kicked aside. When he can't stand it anymore, he runs away from the pond, eventually taking refuge in the warm cottage of an old woman with a cat and a hen. Missing the delicious feeling of the water too much to stay, however, he heads out again into the wide, increasingly cold autumn world.
One day, he heard a sound of whirring wings, and up in the air he saw a flock of birds flying high. They were as bright as the snow that had fallen during the night, and their long necks were stretched southward. Oh, if only he could go with them! But what sort of companion could he be to those beautiful beings?"
At last, after a hard, cold winter--and plenty of the kind of adventures no one really wants to have--the duckling sees the same flock of birds he'd seen in the sky so many months ago. He decides he will follow them, somewhat dramatically preferring to be killed by them rather than suffer any more "cold and hunger and cruelty." Much to his surprise, they welcome him! And when he looks for his dull, awkward reflection in the water, he sees a beautiful swan instead. Children who feel ostracized, even for the tiniest of differences, may shed a few sympathetic tears for the ugly duckling. And no doubt, it was Andersen's wish to give them the hope of one day finding their own peaceful place. (Ages 3 to 9) --Karin Snelson

From Publishers Weekly

Pinkney's (Rikki-Tikki-Tavi) supple, exquisitely detailed watercolors provide a handsome foil to his graceful adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen classic. This "duckling" is teased unmercifully by his apparent siblings but loved by the mother duck: "He may not be quite as handsome as the others," she says, "but... I am sure he will make his way in the world as well as anybody." Eventually he runs away, and as the seasons turn, the fledgling has a series of adventures, from a close encounter with a hunting dog to getting trapped in ice. All the while he is growing, transforming, and in the triumphant ending, he finds peace and happiness when his real identity is revealed to himself and to readers. Pinkney's artwork is a swan song to the beauty of the pastoral, and his lush images flow across the pages in sweeping vistas and meticulous close-ups. Whether depicting the subtle patterns and colors of a duck's feathers, the murky twilight of a freshwater pond or the contrast of red berries against dried grasses etched with snow, Pinkney's keenly observed watercolors honor nature in all its splendor. A flawlessly nuanced performance by a consummate craftsman. Ages 3-up.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 650L (What's this?)
  • Series: Caldecott Honor Book
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Morrow Junior Books; 1st edition (March 24, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068815932X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688159320
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 0.4 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,798 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Ebeling on April 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Like most parents, you want your child's home library to include standard fairy tales. Jerry Pinkney's "The Ugly Duckling" combines incredibly detailed ilustrations with a nice balance of both strong and muted colors AND a wonderful re-telling of the generations-old standard tale. In this verson, however, people are woven into the story in a way that I haven't seen before, and I like that very much. It's easy to see why this book was selected as a 1999 Caldecott Honor Book. Pinkney's a very gifted illustrator, and he really has to be given credit for his well-constructed text as well as the gorgeous pictures. Authors who write and then illustrate their own stories are somewhat rare, and as an adult, I appreciate the incredible mix of talent and hard work this represents. My children, of course, just love the pictures; they'll grow to appreciate good writing as they get older.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Tracy L. Polyak on October 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Let's face it, the traditional ugly duckling story is a little rough, with all of the "grown-up" animals treating that poor duckling so mean. It is understandable why other versions try to lighten it up by altering the story and/or illustrating it with cartoons.

This version maintains the shocking portions of the story. (For example, the ugly duckling is bitten because "he is so ugly he deserves to be bitten.") Although I was concerned about how it would affect my 4yo, I felt that it was vital to understanding why this little duck would run away and risk death in the cold of winter. As it turned out, it served as a good basis for discussing how we should treat people and how treating someone poorly can hurt them while treating them kindly can save a life, both literally and figuratively. I also felt the beautiful, serene illustrations served to balance the ugliness, bringing a quiet reverence to the story.
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52 of 62 people found the following review helpful By David Roderick on January 2, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
With my grandchildren in mind, I recently searched for free Kindle books with illustrations that would be appropriate for different young age groups. Wow! In no time at all I found the story by Hans Christian Anderson of "The Ugly Duckling". What a treasure! And...the free Kindle Fire edition is outstanding. Well formatted with many colorful illustrations. I loved the story (even at 75 years old) and knew that it would be perfect for our grandchildren in the range of 5-8 years old. Or, maybe until 100. I read it once again and marvelled at its universality. This is a winner and I give it five stars!!! Outstanding job Graphic Spin and Amazon!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This version of The Ugly Duckling is a great retelling of the classic story, with an enriched exploration of the Ugly Duckling's feelings and experiences. The illustrations are stunning. My three children, ages 3-5, are enthralled. And because of the nuance and complexity of the story, this will continue to be a family favorite for years to come.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Stephen M. Charme HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I downloaded this book for free--and after perusing it promptly deleted it. No way would this work for my 3 year old granddaughter. Here's why:

1. This is 99% text, and the few illustrations that do exist are miniscule. It's a joke to call this "illustrated."

2. The text is often boring and way over the head of a young child: "It would be very sad, were I to relate all the misery and privations the poor little duckling endured during the hard winter..." Or how about this: "He now felt glad at having suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy so much better the pleasure and happiness around him..."

3. There is also too much emphasis on beating and killing. How about this passage: "I will fly to those royal birds," he exclaimed, "and they will kill me, because I am so ugly, and dare to approach them. It does not matter. Better to be killed by them than pecked by the ducks, beaten by the hens, pushed by the maiden who feeds the poultry, or starved with hunger in the winter."

4. While this may be the original story, I remember as a child reading a version devoid of all the gore in this story, and certainly never read anything like: "Kill me, said the poor bird; and he bent his head down to the surface of the water and awaited death."

Bottom line: This is absolutely NOT suitable for young children (ages 2-5). In fact I don't think it works for older children either because while the text may not frighten them, I think it will bore them.

I just ordered Children's Classic Fairy Tales: The Ugly Duckling, which I was able to preview part of before ordering. The preview had nice illustrations and text appropriate for my granddaughter.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Marsha H. on February 20, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have "never" read such a cruel version of The Ugly Duckling. Not only did he receive over the top abuse, the writer had to include the sportsmen out on the moor shooting wild geese and causing the water to be tinged with blood. REALLY...this is a children's book?
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Talo on March 8, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Just what the title says.. I thought that there was a lot of text compared to the number of illustrations in this book. Younger kids may get bored if story are too wordy. Also some of the translations came across as being kind of harsh. Perhaps in the original German( ?) it just translates differently but I really do not want to read to my kid a line like " Please Kill me said the ugly Duckling".
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