The Ugly Duckling

The Ugly Duckling

Book - 1999
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A gorgeous, Caldecott Honor-winning version of the classic story

For over one hundred years The Ugly Duckling has been a childhood favorite, and Jerry Pinkney's spectacular 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 the drama to life in this hardcover picture book.

Publisher: New York : Morrow Junior Books, 1999.
ISBN: 9780688159337
Branch Call Number: J 398. 209489 AND UGL
Characteristics: [34] p. : col. ill.
Additional Contributors: Pinkney, Jerry


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Apr 29, 2008

This book is well-intentioned but in some ways counter-productive. Here are a few of the less celebrated lessons that this book might teach:

1) It implies that only those who are biologically similar to you (here, the swans) would recognize your "beauty".

2) Conversely, those who are unlike you (ducks) would not learn to see your "beauty". This is the critical missing element in the story. The reader is presumably enlightened about the relativity of "beauty" by the end of the book -- but there is no positive model of an individual (duckling/signet) confronting the taunting crowd (ducks) about the prejudice. There is also no example of a society that has improved itself based on "beauty and strength in diversity".

3) The unspoken moral is that even if you know that "beauty" is bunk, you better stay with "your own crowd" to avoid hassles from the incorrigible others.

This story also shows the danger of using animals as stand-in for people in children's literature. Using "people" who belong to different animal species creates the impression that biological differences are more important than they really are. In reality, there is only one human species, and only one human race.

By the way, the swans showing out of nowhere at the end of the story are nothing more than "deus ex machina" -- an artificial new element wedged into the story at the last minute to ensure a "happy ending".

Apr 28, 2008

Well illustrated retelling.

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