Want personalized picks that fit your family?

Set preferences to see our top age-appropriate picks for your kids.

Get age-based picks

The Ugly Duckling

Book review by
Ann Marie Sammataro, Common Sense Media
The Ugly Duckling Book Poster Image
Kids will sympathize with ugly duckling's plight.

Parents say

age 5+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 3+
Based on 5 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Other farmyard creatures (and the humans) are cruel to the duckling.

Violence & Scariness

Hunters shoot at a flock of geese, and a hunting dog confronts the duckling. The duckling vows that he would rather be killed by the swans than suffer any more cruelty.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that kids will be drawn into the detailed illustrations, and empathize with the forlorn fowl. Positive messages about acceptance abound, and there's nothing here that kids can't handle.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMargaret Wiatr February 22, 2009

I cried

A good fairy tale with a good moral.
Adult Written byEmily S. August 28, 2016

Ugly Duckling Review

I think this is a great book for all children grades 3rd and up. I've always enjoyed this book because of the messages it has. It's a great example to... Continue reading
Kid, 8 years old August 19, 2009
Teen, 14 years old Written byMillyMolly June 14, 2011


that's all I can say. Who doesn't know this story?

What's the story?

'I am too ugly even for a dog to eat,' the duckling thought. Jerry Pinkney's poignant text and rich artwork convey the timeless appeal of this tale of hardship and redemption. Anyone who has suffered the sting of ostracism can sympathize with the ugly duckling's plight and will relish the uplifting conclusion.

Is it any good?

The author pays homage to Hans Christian Andersen's compassionate tale with this faithful adaptation, an ageless story that speaks across generations with its reaffirming message. In this age of instant gratification, Andersen's tale reminds readers that some things are worth waiting for and that a pleasure deferred (whether by choice or by necessity) is often the sweetest one of all.

Illustrator Jerry Pinkney's descriptive passages resonate with the splendor of nature's beauty. The glowing watercolors, filled with intricate details, make each blade of grass visible, and the delicately drawn, nearly transparent mosquitoes are as ethereal as they are in life. The subtle details incorporated into the scenes -- a frog catching a passing fly at the pond and a tiny mouse perched by a crate in the old woman's cottage -- will encourage children to take another look at this old and familiar story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the difficulties of being "different" and the pain of being rejected by one's peers. Have you ever been ostracized by others for the way you look? How did it make you feel? Have you ever treated someone else differently because they didn't look or act like you and your friends?

Book details

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate