Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Ugly Duckling

In a talk to a high school fine arts class, the local symphony conductor told a story about his neighbors. When their daughter came to babysit, he asked if her parents were going to the symphony performance. "Oh, they've already seen this one," she replied. He was surprised, he told the class, because each conductor and orchestra have a different take on the interpretation of the music. To prove his point, he played--via cassette tape-- three different versions of one movement from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and discussed with the class those differences.

All this is background to the reason why someone would create another "version" of an established fairy tale. Dear Reader, this is a version of "The Ugly Duckling" you will want for your very own children, classroom, or library. It is gorgeous! Even better, the storyteller, Stephen Mitchell, has added elements not found in the original story by Han Christian Andersen. Illustrators Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher also show us a new way of seeing. Just as that conductor demonstrated with music, each writer and illustrator "sees" the story in a slightly different way. In this book that way is remarkably different.

The question is: Is this "Ugly Duckling" worthy enough for print? Walker Books (publishers) thought so in 2008 when they published this version. Let's examine it for ourselves.

1. The illustrations are simply eye-popping. Once you stuff those eyeballs back in their sockets, take a close look at the texture and patterns on every page, especially duckling's feathers. There are swirls and twists, criss-crosses that resemble a type of lace. Extraordinary! Inquisitive children love to look all over the place in an illustration just to test their knowledge of things. It's Field Day here!

2. The author also adds his take on events. This is my favorite. It concerns mother duck, who is initially disappointed to find a huge egg that takes too long to hatch. Later, when neighbors in the barnyard say snitty things about her "ugly" child, she defends him: "He may not be pretty, but he has a very good heart. He's kind and considerate, and that's worth at least as much as good looks." There is a return to this theme at the end of the story for a wrap-around effect. I like that very much!

(I cannot help but look at all these illustrations as I turn the pages. How long did it take to create all these patterns then tediously draw each all over the place?)

This is one of those books I found on the discount table at a local bookstore. Why in the world would THIS book be discounted? Anyway, I bought it with my own money with the idea of giving it to the library where I work. However, some books attach to my heart and make me keep them. "The Ugly Duckling" will now join my Olivia series and the Fabian and Hondo books, Mirrette and her high wire, among other books special to me. Yes, it is definitely worthy.


~reena said...

I totally agree with you! In particular with 'classics' - an amazing illustrator can take the reader on an entirely different journey ... much like the analogy of musician's interpreting the same music differently. Here, it is the illustrator's interpretation of words opening a new view. What a beautiful find!

I found your blog through an Amazon Listmania you created for your school.

Just a suggestion, especially for more difficult to find editions, it'd be great if you'd INCLUDE the ISBN of the book you want in the listing.

I think having a 'wishlist' on Amazon for your school library is a great idea. I know when my son was in school, the librarian would have an area with books she'd like for the library (no internet back then) - if someone wanted to purchase them - along with the other items they were buying at the book fair.

Love your teapots/sets. I don't have as many but I am drawn to them and have received many as gifts.

Enjoy your blog and will try to stop back :)

Judy said...

Thank you, ~reena, for your kind and helpful comments. I will start adding the ISBN--that's a good idea!

Would you believe that I did receive a book from a donor through that wish list?!! I was so surprised and pleased!!


A favorite souvenir

A favorite souvenir
These are my two girls from Ireland!

Judy's shared items

Books on my very ambitious TBR list (*denotes read)

  • *Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox
  • The Odd Women by George Gissing
  • The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson
  • How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell
  • The Cod Tale by Mark Kurlansky
  • In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
  • *Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
  • Dag Hammarskjold by Elizabeth Rider Montgomery
  • The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael L. Munk
  • Children of Strangers by Lyle Saxon
  • Spiritual Writings by Flannery O'Connor
  • Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O'Connor and the Catholic Grotesque by Gilbert H. Muller
  • The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
  • Flannery O'Connor's South by Robert Coles
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
  • Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey
  • *Vincent de Paul by Margaret Ann Hubbard
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
  • A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
  • Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
  • *Ruined by Paula Morris
  • Say You're Not One of Them by Uwem Akpan
  • Wandering Star by J.M.G. Le Clezio
  • Silence by Shusaku Endo
  • *The Assault by Harry Mulisch
  • Kari's Saga by Robert Jansson
  • *The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal
  • Western Skies by Joseph Conrad
  • *The Giver by Lois Lowery
  • *Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski

School Library Journal - NeverEndingSearch


A semester course in one book about the Soviet Union. Click on image for my review.