The Ugly Duckling


Each season brings a new obstacle for the unloved duckling -- from summer on a farm where the other animals tease him to a cold, lonely winter on a frozen pond -- but the duckling continues on his search for acceptance. At last spring arrives, and with it comes the duckling’s glorious discovery that he has grown into the most noble of creatures, a swan.

This child-friendly edition introduces the next generation of readers to the magic of Hans ...

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Each season brings a new obstacle for the unloved duckling -- from summer on a farm where the other animals tease him to a cold, lonely winter on a frozen pond -- but the duckling continues on his search for acceptance. At last spring arrives, and with it comes the duckling’s glorious discovery that he has grown into the most noble of creatures, a swan.

This child-friendly edition introduces the next generation of readers to the magic of Hans Christian Andersen.

Hans Christian Andersen's heart-warming tale of the Ugly Duckling, who grows up to be a beautiful swan, is brought to life by Jan Lewis' enchanting and amusing illustrations. With rhyming text that's fun to read aloud, and lots to look at on every page, this really big board book is sure to delight young children.

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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
An unusually beautiful version of an old favorite.
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. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly

In this faithful retelling, Mitchell embraces Andersen's classic but abridges the melancholy Dane's crueler jabs. As in the original, this opens on a bucolic moat where a patient duck warms her nest "under the burdock leaves" and a stork "chatter[s] in Egyptian" (a puzzling detail to preserve for contemporary readers). After the title ugly duckling emerges, even his mother admits "he's not quite the right shape," and finally says, "I wish you were far, far away." Fainthearted readers may pale at the ceaseless hazing and at a scene where two rude geese get shot by hunters (in Andersen, the scene is bloodier). Mitchell omits some nastiness, including suggestions that the duckling is fortunate not to be an ugly female. The didacticism, however, remains: when the duckling realizes he is a swan, "the misery he had undergone... made him appreciate all the more his happiness now.... But he was not at all conceited, for a good heart never becomes conceited." Johnson and Fancher (Casey Back at Bat) provide rural, old-fashioned settings, yet undercut the naturalism with collaged details. Rather than having fuzzy down, the swan-to-be appears covered in pasted-together scraps of lead-and-buttermilk-colored lace; the "royal... magnificent" swans resemble porcelain vases filigreed in pretty blue glaze. This layered effect is pretty but not entirely graceful, and the revelatory ending is muted rather than exhilarating. All the same, it leaves Andersen's spirit intact. Ages 4-8. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature
AGERANGE: Ages 5 to 9.

The classic story of an awkward, unattractive duckling who hatches into a family of downy little ducks is told in a lightly humorous way. The mother duck, tired of sitting on the nest, is happy when the eggs hatch, but one large egg takes longer that the others. When it does hatch, the mother duck must admit he does not look like her other ducklings. She decides she will raise him and teach him to go into the water no matter what it takes. The ugly duckling is laughed at and picked on by all the other creatures. One day he sees a flock of magnificent white birds fly by and he is strangely moved. He aches to join them. After a bitter winter he sees the birds again and approaches them. He wants to be with them even if they think he is ugly. Of course, they welcome him, for he has blossomed into a beautiful white swan. The ultimate lesson is rather sad, as it indicates that beauty is necessary for happiness. The collage paintings accompanying the text are unusual and add another dimension to the story. Reviewer: Carolyn Mott Ford

Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
Many of Andersen's fairy tales do not have a truly happy ending, but the story of the ugly duckling is one that ends in triumph. The duckling is not like his brothers and sisters and is taunted by them and the other ducks. His mother is protective, but the little duckling is treated so badly that he sets out on his own. After suffering much privation, he suddenly sees a flock of the same beautiful birds that flew by many months ago. He glories in his newfound wings and the strength coursing through his body and decided to join them. Much to his surprise they welcome him, for he too has become a beautiful white swan. Pinkney's watercolors are wonderful. From the mother duck's surprise at the large egg that takes so long to hatch, to the poor ducklings struggles to survive during the harsh winter to the warmth and beauty of spring and his reunion with those who welcome him as one of their own. The sunlight on the water and around the beautiful swan are a reflection of the golden glow of inner joy. A truly lovely adaptation of this classic story.
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
Follow the adventures of a poor duckling scorned by all because he is different. When Spring comes he triumphs because he is now a swan. This classic story is richly enhanced byVan Nutt's wonderful illustrations that capture the beauty and colors of the ever changing seasons and the ugly ducklings journey through life's sorrows and joys.
Children's Literature - Deborah Zink Roffino
True to the original version of the story, this interpretation has humor, drama and poignancy as the awkward young cygnet journeys toward his real identity. Andersen's most famous fable of an outcast is retold with well-contrasted woodcuts. The lyrical narration bursts with vivid description and challenging vocabulary.
Children's Literature - Mary Hynes-Berry
Hans Christian Anderson's tale of the ugly duckling is the classic expression of a message that every child who doubts his or her self-worth needs to hear. The important thing is who we are, not how we look. Even the plainest looking beings on the outside have the potential to grow beautiful—inside and out. This version retains a translation of Anderson's text but is graced by Vaino's soft but realistic watercolor paintings. Each spread has two to three paragraphs of text facing a full page illustration. Given the somewhat formal tone and language, the beautiful illustrations invite children alone or with an adult to revisit the story and, by "reading" the illustrations, process and ponder the story's lesson. The illustrations also make this a great book to use in a study of birds or domestic animals, given how few children today are likely to be familiar with ducks or swans. Reviewer: Mary Hynes-Berry
School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 2

Andersen's timeless story is lovingly revisited in this modest yet engaging retelling. With the sound and feel of a classic in the very best sense, the familiar tale has been reworked but not oversimplified, making it particularly appealing for children who might be too young for some of the harsher elements of the original. But what makes this version particularly appealing is the lovely watercolor artwork, which, like the text, exudes a feeling of tradition and familiarity. Uncluttered backgrounds are softly blurred in watery shades of blue and green, while the details are more focused and sharply drawn. The duckling's sadness and longing to belong come through in his posture and expressions, providing a clear focal point for readers' empathy. When considering a classic, it is easy to decide that a collection doesn't need yet another version, but with a beautifully simple offering such as this, one might want to think again.-Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library

Hans Christian Andersen
An unusually beautiful version of an old favorite.
Kirkus Reviews
A gentler, milder version of Andersen's classic tale of the misunderstood cygnet, inexplicably despised for his comparatively large size and definite lack of yellow but not for any real ugliness. Vainio reveals through delicate watercolors the whitish-gray fluff of a charming, tender baby desperately alone in a soft, beautiful world. Though the illustrations are lovely, they lack power. In every situation where the innocent swan is abused and finds no respite from hatred, the art handles this horror too gently. His reactions to rejection and verbal abuse are revealed in the illustrations, with a slight incline of his head showing his dejection. He is also unnaturally slow in growing, remaining a fuzzy baby over the course of months and then suddenly growing to adulthood in a page turn-a problem inherent in most illustrated versions of the tale. The unnamed translator has edited out the most violent verbal and physical abuse found in the original, making a place for it in collections for younger picture-book readers yet losing the story's raw spark. (Picture book/fairy tale. 4-6)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780590437943
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/1/1988
  • Series: Golden Storytime Bks.
  • Pages: 48
  • Age range: 4 - 7 Years

Meet the Author

Vainio works as an illustrator and graphic designer.

Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) was born in Odense, Denmark to a poor family. He left home as a 14-year-old to seek his fortune at the theatre in Copenhagen. Andersen began writing plays and poetry before he left for Copenhagen, but it was not until 1835 that he published the first of the fairytales that would bring him international renown. Since then, his over 200 fairytales have enjoyed undiminished popularity, providing the basis for favorite American interpretations such as Disney's The Little Mermaid.

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