cover image The Ugly Duckling

The Ugly Duckling

Hans Christian Andersen, Troy Howell. Putnam Publishing Group, $15.95 (34pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22158-3

If ever an artist dove straight to the heart of a familiar and much-loved fairy tale, Howell has done so in this atmospheric retelling of the classic tale of the downtrodden ``duckling'' who discovers he's actually a swan. This accomplished artist's light-dappled paintings have a dreamy air, as if a long summer afternoon had somehow been captured between the covers of a book. There is no anthropomorphizing here: Howell is obviously familiar with barnyard animals and his paintings are firmly rooted in the peasant tradition from which many good folktales spring. The colors are of the rich earth as well--the browns and russets of stone farmhouses in the afternoon sun, the muted shades of autumn. Howell's particular gift, however, is his use of light. Some of the images seem almost illuminated from within, as when the cygnet watches a flock of swans cross a Turneresque sky. For its art and language alike, this glorious work is a worthy addition to any folk- and fairy tale bookshelf. Ages 5-9. (Mar.)