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


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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: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

The illustrations were beautiful.
Carol Dempsey
What a beautiful retelling of the story written in Danish by Hans Christian Anderson.
Myrna Trauntvein
Bottom line: This is a wonderful book to entertain your child with a classic story.
Stephen M. Charme

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 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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13 of 13 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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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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book was absolutely wonderful, especially the illustrations. My children loved it. It was not just about being ugly, it was about knowing who you are, your roots, etc - self awareness and self-confidence. The poor duckling "thought" that he was ugly because he didn't know who he really was [a swan]. ...Because he was different from everyone around him, he believed that he was what everyone said he was -- ugly and worthless. The others picked on him because he was different. Once he discovered the truth of who he really was is when he was set free from the bondage of all the untruth that he heard. He discovered who he really was and flourished.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By CMoss on February 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I just read this entire story to my 5 and 3 year old children. The illustrations captured my attention. They were unique - far more than simple watercolor-type work. I loved them and referred my children to the beautiful pictures many times.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on November 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Our class liked it when the ugly duckling turned into a swan. Everyone learned that it doesn't matter if you don't look like everyone else. You should like who you are. We learned about the differences between swans and ducks. Our class learned that when you are young you have to learn about a lot of different things. We think that kids could learn about different things from reading this story such as animals, other stories to read, and feelings.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Margaret C. VINE VOICE on February 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
It all started days ago when I read the free ebook on my kindle that I found. Then we read it again in Mary Engelbreit's Fairy Tales. One was long winded and harsh, the other was much shorter and plain (but with great images!). Then I discovered there was a Jerry Pinkney version and i just knew I had to have it. I first discovered the artistry of Jerry Pinkney in The Lion and the Mouse. Practically wordless, the story was amazingly portrayed in vivid detail.

I was not disappointed here. It was closer to the kindle version in story text, but not as harsh I'd think. The illustrations are so textual that the animals seem to almost russle off the page. This has got to be my favorite version of the story. Yes it is wordy, but original to Hans Christian Anderson ina great adaptation. The images portray so much and a child (or adult) is left really able to ponder the nature of it all.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Darien Summers on April 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The ugly duckling is a classic telling of an all too familiar theme that we as parents tell our kids all the time: that looks on the outside matter little, and that it's what is on the inside that counts. This classic tale tells the message for us, in a fun and entertaining way that children will enjoy (my daughter did anyway).

If you don't the skinny on this old classic, it's as follows: a newborn baby duck makes his way into the world, but this is no ordinary duck, oh, no; this duck doesn't quite look like his siblings or any other duck for that matter. This duck is teased, bullied and made to feel worthless. But in the end, we find out that this duck is not a duck at all, but in fact is a swan and a beautiful one at that.

I believe that the realization of the swan that he is not ugly and actually is something beautiful is very touching as he seemed so sad before this realization. I don't think the author is trying to say that if you are labeled as ugly, that you will and should be teased; but the symbolism of ugly duck turning into a beautiful swan seems to convey a type of hidden self worth which comes into light when needed the most. I realize this might be over the heads of younger readers, but I hope you parents understand my meaning.

The color illustrations are excellent.

Darien Summers, author of The Mischievous Hare, a children's book.
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