The Ugly Duckling

by Hans Christian Andersen
38 pages, Picture Book
Reviewed by Lily A.

An attractive adaption of the classic fairytale.


Adapted and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.
In the nest of a proud first-time mother, one duckling is hatched who is unlike the others. Life is not easy for this “ugly duckling,” and he has a long way to go before he will discover who he is.


The main character is decent, if not heroic, and wants to please. Many characters can be quite mean and insensitive. Bullies are shown to be in the wrong. Differences which at first are seen as disadvantages can actually mean that someone is special, and others will see this in time.

Spiritual Content



The duckling is pecked, bitten, and has stones thrown at him by various characters in the barnyard where he was born. Birds fly frantically when hunters shoot. The duckling believes he may be killed on two occasions, one of which involves a large dog. The duckling is temporarily trapped in ice, and runs away from people he believes might hurt him.

Drug and Alcohol Content


Sexual Content

None except for definitions which include references to birds laying eggs, and illustrations of adorable hatchlings.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

There is no crude language, although characters can be insulting using plain English.


This is a clean, sweet story of an animal character’s self-discovery, adapted from the work by the master of fairytales, Hans Christian Andersen. The prose is straightforward, understandable, and descriptive. The illustrations are lush, full-page spreads in watercolor, with light pen or graphite outlines, detailing bending reeds, splashing ponds, soaring clouds, fluffy fur and feathers, frost and fish and expressive eyes and craning necks to give the reader a treat. The only downside I can see is that descriptions of the big dog and barnyard bullying might be scary to extremely young or sensitive readers.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 4.5
Written for Age: 5-7

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