Booklist Reviews

/*Starred Review*/ Ages 4^-8. Like his illustrations for Patricia McKissack's Mirandy and Brother Wind (1989), Pinkney's joyful watercolors set his adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's classic story in an old-fashioned pastoral world. The gorgeous double-page spreads combine realistic light-filled scenes of farmyard and pond life with a focus on one small bird who doesn't fit in, an awkward creature who appears to disrupt the natural harmony but is really part of the wonder of connection and renewal. Andersen's story has inspired outsiders for more than 150 years, and Pinkney tells it here with stirring drama. From the moment the bird hatches out of the egg, he is "a monstrous big duckling," pecked by the other birds, taunted even by his brothers and sisters, kicked by the girl who feeds him. He steals away to a marshy place, escapes hunters and their dogs, can't fit in with kindly humans and their pets. Watching a beautiful flock of swans flying south, he yearns to fly high with them; instead, he endures cold and hunger and cruelty through the long winter. A heartrending picture shows him caught fast in the ice, alone, in a still, desolate landscape. In glorious contrast is the climactic scene in spring when he flies to join the swans in the water, looks down to see his reflection, and finds not dull feathers and an awkward skinny neck but a bird of regal beauty. The final picture of the great swan in the water with blooming flowers, leaping fish, and a hovering dragonfly, is a triumph of delicacy and strength, harmony and grace. ((Reviewed March 1, 1999)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

Horn Book Magazine Reviews

Andersen's story of the duckling who became a swan has become part of folklore and as such is suited to retelling and adaptation. A brief note on the copyright page identifies the sources for this version as Lang's Yellow Fairy Book and Andersen's Fairy Tales (originally published as Faery Tales from Hans Andersen). The narrative, obviously crafted with much thought as to the pacing required for picture-book format, emphasizes the actions of the protagonists but omits the social commentary and philosophizing found in Erik Hauggard's translation. Yet the essential tone is retained, and there is more than a hint of Andersen in the diction. The illustrations-gorgeous watercolors-are mesmerizing, and a fitting interpretation of the story. Each spread is a marvel of texture, color, and movement, carefully composed so that it surrounds but does not overwhelm the text. Take, for example, the illustration depicting the duckling frozen in the water: we have a cross-section view of a winter landscape; the ice forms the dividing line between water and air; the duck's head and body rests on the surface, his legs visible in the water. Surely, no more pathetic depiction of his plight could be imagined. The book's size is suitable for sharing with a group-always a consideration for picture-book programs. And shared it should be, for it is a splendid production. m.m.b. Copyright 1999 Horn Book Magazine Reviews

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) Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly Reviews

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. (Mar.) Copyright 1999 Publishers Weekly Reviews

School Library Journal Reviews

K-Gr 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 School Library Journal Reviews