Summary
This is the story of a swan born into a family of ducks, who is cast out of the pond because the other animals believe such an "ugly duckling" doesn't belong with them. Wherever he goes, the ugly duckling encounters animals that shun him for the same reason. Upon encountering a group of elegant white birds, the ugly duckling aspires to one day be as beautiful as them. After a dreadfully cold and lonely winter, the ugly duckling sees his reflection in the water and realizes that he wasn't a duck after all - he has grown to be the most beautiful swan in the pond.

Interpretation
The Ugly Duckling is a classic tale of searching for one's own identity as an alternative to assimilation. The cat and the hen tell him that if he wants to be taken seriously, or to even receive acknowledgement that he has an opinion, he must behave in certain ways. Despite this discouragement, the ugly duckling continues to seek his heritage by following the one thing he loves most: swimming. When he is put down for such "silly" desires, he leaves the farm in hopes of finding someone more like himself. This determination to discover where he belongs encourages children to never give up. Though the ugly duckling is put down numerous times throughout the story, in the end he achieves a happy existence as one of Nature's most beautiful creatures.

However, the message is not entirely positive. This story is focused around a question that children often ask: where do I fit in? The ugly duckling is a cast out of the duck pond not merely because he is different from everyone, but (as is repeated time and again throughout the tale) because he is too ugly. This is a demeaning message for kids who are likely to worry about being teased for their own faults, however minute. Unfortunately, this concern is not refuted until the end when the swan magically becomes the most beautiful and most admired animal in the pond. While in the end the swan triumphs, he has no control over his sudden acceptance among the other animals and the humans, except for his intense desire to be treated as an equal. This message does not base acceptance on one's actions but rather on one's state of mind and outside forces. Thus, it is likely children may believe either that their desire to be accepted is more important than their actions, or that their fate is out of their control, leading them to lose hope.

Author's Bio
Exerpted from http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/hcanders.htm

Hans Christian Andersen's
fame rests on his Fairy Tales and Stories, written between 1835 and 1872. Tales, Told for Children, appeared in a small, cheap booklet in 1835. In this and following early collections, which were published in every Christmas, Andersen returned to the stories which he had heard as a child, but gradually he started to create his own tales. The third volume of his tales, published in 1837, contained 'The Little Mermaid' and 'The Emperor's New Clothes.' Among Andersen's other best known fairy tales are 'Little Ugly Duckling,' 'The Tinderbox,' 'Little Claus and Big Claus,' 'Princess and the Pea,' 'The Snow Queen,' The Nightingale,' and 'The Steadfast Tin Soldier.'

In his fairy tale collections Andersen broke new ground in both style and content, and employed the idioms and constructions of spoken language in a way that was new in Danish writing. When fairy tales at his time were didactic, he introduced into them ambiguity. His identification with the unfortunate and outcast made his tales very compelling. Some of Andersen's tales revealed an optimistic belief in the triumph of the good, among them 'The Snow Queen' and 'Little Ugly Duckling', and some ended unhappily, like 'The Little Match Girl.' In 'The Little Mermaid' the author expressed a longing for ordinary life - he never had such.... Andersen's tales were translated throughout Europe, with four editions appearing in the UK in 1846 alone.

Illustrator's Bio
Adapted from http://childrensbooks.about.com/library/weekly/aa102101a.htm and Penguin Putnam online biography

Jerry Pinkney is known for his watercolor paintings, created with pencil, colored pencils, and watercolor. His artwork is characterized by rich details and shading. His realistic and vibrant illustrations help to extend and enhance the story in each of the books he has illustrated. Some of his well-known illustrations are for "Aesop's Fables," Hans Christian Andersen's "The Ugly Duckling," Valerie Flournoy's "The Patchwork Quilt," and Patricia McKissack's "Goin' Someplace Special." ...Pinkney began illustrating children's books in 1964 and by 2000 had illustrated more than 75 picture books. Among the books he has illustrated are several written by his wife, Gloria, and a number written by Julius Lester.

Over the years, Jerry Pinkney has gained a reputation as both a fine artist and as an illustrator of children's books. Pinkney's body of work has tended to focus on multicultural and African American themes. Among many other projects, he designed a dozen postage stamps for the U.S. Postal Service Black Heritage series. According to Pinkney, "I wanted to show that an African American artist could make it on a national level in the graphic arts. I wanted to be a strong role model for my family and other African Americans."

Author's Comments
There is no author commentary available for this book.

Publishing History
-Hans Christian Andersen
Hardcover - 1844 by H. Hamilton
Paperback - 1985 by Oxford University Press
-English text by Anne Stewart
Hardcover - September 1985 by William Morrow
-retold and illustrated by Lorinda Bryan Cauley
Reissued - August 1989 by Voyager Books
-illustrated by Lisa McCue
Hardcover - March 1998 by
Golden Books Pub. Co. Inc.
-illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
Hardcover - March 1999 by Morrow Junior Books (now HarperCollins Books)
-retold by Kevin Crossley-Holland
Hardcover - October 2001 by Knopf

Lesson Plans
Hans Christian Andersen Teacher Resource File
EDSITEment for The Ugly Duckling
Lesson Plans for Children's Literature Books - The Ugly Duckling