Author: Hans Christian Anderson, Adapted by Jerry Pinkney
Illustrator: Jerry Pinkney
Publisher and Year: Morrow Junior Books, 1999
Number of pages: 30
Genre: Fiction, Fable
Descriptive Annotation: Mother Duck is keeping her six eggs warm when she notices that one egg is different from the rest. When it comes time for the ducklings to hatch, the one that hatches from the different egg is larger than the rest and has a dull color. Other ducks, including the duckling’s siblings, and birds call the duckling ugly, bite him, and pick on him. The duckling does not feel like he belongs, so he swims away and sets out on a journey to discover who he is and where he fits in. The duckling runs into caring strangers along the way, but he still has not found his place. Just as he is about to give up, he runs into a group of swans. He believes he cannot join the swans because he is just an ugly duckling. However, when the duckling looks at his reflection in the water, he sees that he has turned into a beautiful swan, the most beautiful of the group. It is at this moment that the duckling finally feels happy and at peace. The illustrations are so detailed and vivid. The colors Pinkney uses play a major role in the ugly duckling’s transformation. Students do not necessarily need any background information before reading this book.
Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: You could use this book to discuss with your students that everyone is unique, and we should not treat someone differently or poorly because of the way they look or act. This book would be a powerful book to read aloud, especially to younger students as they are starting to notice differences and similarities between themselves and their peers. This book uses a lot of emotional, strong words to try to make you develop empathy and other feelings for the duckling.
Interdisciplinary Connections: You could use this book in a science lesson and discuss the life cycle of a duck or swan. You could also have your students write a letter to the ugly duckling to cheer it up, or you could have them write about how they would feel if they were the ugly duckling.
Other Information: This book is a classic and one that should be read in every classroom as to establish that bullying or treating others unfairly will not be tolerated. It is a beautiful tale. As a closure activity, you could have your students develop a set of classroom rules that define how they are going to treat each other in the classroom.