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The Ugly Duckling (Caldecott Honor Book) Hardcover – March 24, 1999
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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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Top Customer Reviews
This book teaches kids that you can't judge people by what they look like that it's what's on the inside that counts, and that you shouldn't ever be mean to others just because of their looks. I love this lesson because it's something that we have been telling our kids so they know not to ever pick on people because we are all the same. Everyone has different qualities that make them special and it's what makes them who they are so they need to get to know someone by their personality and all.
It helps show how some people except who they are faster then others so by judging them it makes them feel less of themselves which is not something we need to be doing at all. You can't judge a book by it's cover it's what's inside the book that really matters so this is a wonderful lesson to teach kids and even remind adults as well.
(massive spoilers ahead)
It's 95% text (which is fine, though that in itself already makes it much harder for little kids/toddlers to appreciate), but also, the text and story line are both... very difficult for children.
Like many people, I was familiar with the general Ugly Duckling story... but I hadn't ever (like now) read through the full translation. What you find is a world where only outward appearances matter. Everyone is not only mean, but downright cruel to the a bird because it is deemed ugly, and thus unworthy.
I always knew this was the main theme... I just didn't expect it to be hammered in quite so thoroughly within a book classified as a children's book.
The drawings are fine, neither terrible nor great... but the actions of the animals are cruel, and our protagonist at one point (near the very end of the story) actually wants to die. When he sees a group of swans nearby, he doesn't think he's one of them, he thinks that they will be the one to finally put him out of his misery, to kill him since he'd prefer a quick death to being an ugly bird who is treated cruelly, starved, etc.
First... is that the message you want to give to your children? That if they're not beautiful they won't be loved? And second, at what age group would it be appropriate to have a tale about a bird who wishes for death because he can't stand being ugly (and thus despised)?
It's not often I dislike a children's book this much... but this is far more appropriately marketed for adults interested in reading a translation of the original than for children.
This book would make a nice read aloud for children in the early grades of elementary school. Teachers and parents will find lots of parallels and links to modern day childhood problems.
So I guess if you want to read an HCA fairy tale, this is a good one. Just know what you are in for.