Hans Christian Andersen,
adapted and illustrated
by Jerry Pinkney,
The Ugly Duckling
(Morrow, 1999)

Jerry Pinkney's adaptation of the familiar Hans Christian Andersen tale of the "duckling" who grows up to be a swan is appealing right from the book jacket, rendered in his trademark watercolors and featuring a sunny yellow background with the newly hatched cygnet with a piece of eggshell stuck on his head. The illustration wraps around to the back of the jacket where the other ducklings are staring at him curiously.

Pinkney's attention to detail extends to the endpapers, with the front depicting the little cygnet struggling to follow his mallard parents and the back endpapers showing the fully grown swan, as well as the title page with a bucolic painting of the farm. The text is set on lush, lovely double page spreads, where Pinkney captures the crowded fuss and bother of the barnyard, the cool depths of the river, the muscular energy of a hunting dog. At the end of the story, the swan is illuminated with a touch of golden yellow light; the highlighting is both subtle and effective. The pages are packed with details; there is much here over which to pore.

In addition, Pinkney demonstrates not only his talent as an illustrator but his skill at adapting the text of the tale. His retelling is clear and accessible and captures the essence of the original. This is no small task; it is too easy to strip the story of its rich language.

This is one of the finest versions of this tale I've seen and would be well worth giving to a "duckling" of your own.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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