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The Ugly Duckling
by Dorothy Canfield
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Three-time Caldecott Honor artist and four-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, Jerry Pinkney doesn't disappoint with this lovely, old-fashioned, richly textured watercolor adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Ugly Duckling. The mother duck knew from the very beginning that one of her babies would be different from the rest... the sixth egg was large and oddly shaped. When it finally hatches that summer, she thinks the "monstrous big duckling" must be a turkey chick! Other ducks are appalled by the ugly duckling, and he is chased, pecked, and kicked aside. When he can't stand it anymore, he runs away from the pond, eventually taking refuge in the warm cottage of an old woman with a cat and a hen. Missing the delicious feeling of the water too much to stay, however, he heads out again into the wide, increasingly cold autumn world.
One day, he heard a sound of whirring wings, and up in the air he saw a flock of birds flying high. They were as bright as the snow that had fallen during the night, and their long necks were stretched southward. Oh, if only he could go with them! But what sort of companion could he be to those beautiful beings?"At last, after a hard, cold winter--and plenty of the kind of adventures no one really wants to have--the duckling sees the same flock of birds he'd seen in the sky so many months ago. He decides he will follow them, somewhat dramatically preferring to be killed by them rather than suffer any more "cold and hunger and cruelty." Much to his surprise, they welcome him! And when he looks for his dull, awkward reflection in the water, he sees a beautiful swan instead. Children who feel ostracized, even for the tiniest of differences, may shed a few sympathetic tears for the ugly duckling. And no doubt, it was Andersen's wish to give them the hope of one day finding their own peaceful place. (Ages 3 to 9) --Karin Snelson
From Publishers Weekly
Pinkney's (Rikki-Tikki-Tavi) supple, exquisitely detailed watercolors provide a handsome foil to his graceful adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen classic. This "duckling" is teased unmercifully by his apparent siblings but loved by the mother duck: "He may not be quite as handsome as the others," she says, "but... I am sure he will make his way in the world as well as anybody." Eventually he runs away, and as the seasons turn, the fledgling has a series of adventures, from a close encounter with a hunting dog to getting trapped in ice. All the while he is growing, transforming, and in the triumphant ending, he finds peace and happiness when his real identity is revealed to himself and to readers. Pinkney's artwork is a swan song to the beauty of the pastoral, and his lush images flow across the pages in sweeping vistas and meticulous close-ups. Whether depicting the subtle patterns and colors of a duck's feathers, the murky twilight of a freshwater pond or the contrast of red berries against dried grasses etched with snow, Pinkney's keenly observed watercolors honor nature in all its splendor. A flawlessly nuanced performance by a consummate craftsman. Ages 3-up.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 4-The appeal of this tale is as strong today as it was 150 years ago, and Pinkney has done an admirable job of repackaging it for a new generation. His adaptation of the text succeeds in capturing the gentleness and melancholy of Andersen, although a bit of the social commentary has gone by the wayside. Pinkney does not shy away from including the more disturbing elements, such as the shooting of the geese, recognizing this episode's importance to the fabric of the story. The first glimpse he gives readers of the duckling, having at long last emerged from his shell, exhausted and vulnerable despite his size, foreshadows the events to come and immediately engages children's sympathy. Naturalists will quibble over the artist's choice of birds. This duckling is born into a mallard family, wild, not domestic, and the geese are Canadas, whose range is generally North America. However, these details do not in any way detract from the feast to the eye that these illustrations are, carefully composed and rich in detail. Even those owning The Ugly Duckling as told by Marianna Mayer, illustrated by Thomas Locker (Macmillan, 1987; o.p.)-the most recent "Duckling" of note-will welcome this fresh new version. An artistic tour de force that is worthy of its graceful fine-feathered subject.
Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
PLB 0-688-15933-8 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) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
For over one hundred years The Ugly Duckling has been a childhood favorite, and Jerry Pinkney's spectacular new adaptation brings it triumphantly to new generations of readers. With keen emotion and fresh vision, the acclaimed artist captures the essence of the tale's timeless appeal: The journey of the awkward little bird -- marching bravely through hecklers, hunters, and cruel seasons -- is an unforgettable survival story; this blooming into a graceful swan is a reminder of the patience often necessary to discover true happiness. Splendid watercolors set in the lush countryside bring drama to life.
Card catalog description
An ugly duckling spends an unhappy year ostracized by the other animals before he grows into a beautiful swan.
About the Author
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 Disneys The Little Mermaid.
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