A timeless story deftly retold, this adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Ugly Duckling
shines under the storytelling skills of Carnegie-winner Kevin Crossley-Holland (The Seeing Stone
) and the playful watercolors of Meilo So (The 20th-Century Children's Poetry Treasury
This all-star pair of Brits captures the personality of the poor persecuted duckling perfectly, as he's shunned by his fellow farm animals, his family, and even by a hunting party: "'Mercy!' cheeped the little duckling. 'I'm so ugly not even the dog wants me.'" He then begins a year-long journey through an inhospitable world, further rejected by an old woman and her cruel cat and hen ("'Can't you lay eggs?' asked the hen. 'No,' said the duckling. 'Shut up, then!'").
The beauty of So's delicate strokes only grows as the story reaches its time-honored climax, the reunion of the "duckling" with a flock of regal swans. And just as Andersen's story is likely semiautobiographical, more than a few kids (and grownups, too) will be particularly pleased when our handsome hero finds his home. (Ages 4 to 8) --Paul Hughes
From Publishers Weekly
Crossley-Holland (Storm) and So (The 20th Century Children's Poetry Treasury) bring out all the luster of Andersen's classic tale in this beguiling book. The familiar sequence of events unfolds in a courtly retelling shot through with flashes of humor ("That's a turkey's egg," says a duck elder authoritatively before the "duckling" hatches; "Waddle properly keep your legs well apart, like I do," the mother duck urges her strange child). Crossley-Holland's prose is as elegant as it is lyrical ("Sunlight settled on the shoulders of the ancient castle"; "A great skein of wild geese started up"; "Clouds sagged with snow and hail"). So's dexterous, impressionistic watercolors soar between blocks of text on the spreads for a highly dynamic presentation. The images are by turn droll, dreamlike and bittersweet, ranging from a dog splashing wildly through the marsh and the busy congress of a barnyard to the supple arch of a bird's neck against a winter sky. The equal of the striking prose, So's graceful brush strokes and expressive use of line issue an irresistible invitation to readers. Ages 5-8.
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