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