The Ugly Duckling


Large, full-color, richly detailed illustrations characterize this retelling of the famous Hans Christian Andersen tale.

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 ...

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Large, full-color, richly detailed illustrations characterize this retelling of the famous Hans Christian Andersen tale.

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.
School Library Journal

K-Gr 4
This beautifully illustrated retelling of Andersen's classic tale has some minor changes in the text but overall maintains the integrity of the original; in fact, the retelling really seems unnecessary especially since there are no source notes and there are already many good translations of this story available. It is the mixed-media illustrations that will likely intrigue readers; the art combines painting with lace to achieve a textural and patterned appearance. A stunning spread shows a close-up of a goose with wings stretched wide that impressively depict distinct and realistic-looking feathers as it flies over a serene country landscape. Each page is suffused with color, predominantly bright shades of green, blue, and brown, and the bold font stands out clearly from the background. Small images are interspersed with the text-eggs cracking open, a dog rushing into the marsh, and a raven perched on a fence post. There are many other lovely visual interpretations available, including those by Jerry Pinkney (Morrow, 1999) and Robert Ingpen (Minedition, 2005).
—Kirsten CutlerCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Hans Christian Andersen
An unusually beautiful version of an old favorite.
Kirkus Reviews
Outstanding illustrations and some new characters make Pinkney's retelling of a familiar tale memorable. This time around, there's an old woman who befriends the duck for its egg-laying potential, a hunting dog that happens upon the duck, a man who pulls the duck out of a frozen river and provides warmth and shelter, and children who comment on the once-ugly duckling's arrival at a pond, saying it is the finest of the flock. As in the original, suffering and loneliness are appeased, and the enduring lessons are reaffirmed: suffering may be necessary for growth and happiness, and loneliness may be overcome. A spirited, artistic adaptation, and a welcome addition to the shelves. (Picture book/folklore. 3-9) .
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156925280
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/28/1979
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 528,500
  • Age range: 5 - 9 Years
  • Lexile: AD520L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.04 (w) x 10.02 (h) x 0.19 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Mitchell is a renowned writer and translator whose award-winning books for young readers include THE WISHING BONE, THE NIGHTINGALE, and THE TINDERBOX.

Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher are an award-winning illustration team who have worked together for more than twenty years, illustrating books by authors as diverse as John Scieszka, Garrison Keillor, Margaret Wise Brown, and Dr. Suess. Their unusual collaborative method allows both artists to conceive, draw, design, and paint. For THE UGLY DUCKLING, they’ve chosen a stunning collage style. They live in Minneapolis.

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