cover image The Ugly Duckling

The Ugly Duckling

Hans Christian Andersen, , illus. by Roberta Angaramo. . Purple Bear, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-933327-09-9

The translation of Andersen's Danish text (copyright page states simply that this is adapted from W. Angeldorff's translation) may be dense and formal, but Italian artist Angaramo's full-bleed spreads are anything but. Novel visual angles, human expressions on the faces of the animals, and plenty of bright greenery and golden sun convey a feeling of optimism at odds with the sober tale. Angaramo's duckling is a tiny grayish fellow with huge feet and cheerful pinprick eyes. The text describes the trials he undergoes because of his odd appearance: "the poor ugly duckling was bitten, pushed, and sneered at both by the ducks and the hens." But though Angaramo's ugly duckling stands alone in the big barnyard (viewed from bird's-eye level, the barn and haystacks appear as high as mountains), the animals who encircle him talking excitedly, with shining eyes; they might be complimenting his nice gray plumage. Even in the worst of the cold ("Just thinking about winter was enough to make one feel frozen, and the poor duckling certainly had a very bad time of it"), Angaramo's duckling lifts his wings happily, a smile on his face. As an introduction to Andersen's traditional tales, this is as benign an entry as parents could hope to find. Ages 4-up. (Apr.)