An unusually beautiful version of an old favorite.
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.
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 - 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 beautifulinside 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
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.
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)