cover image The Ugly Duckling

The Ugly Duckling

Hans Christian Andersen. HarperCollins Publishers, $17.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-688-15932-0

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.)