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

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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 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
Adult Written bySTRIDER9 April 7, 2013

read it

I was that ugly duckling and at times still am but I love this story
Teen, 16 years old Written byAnimationReview... June 2, 2018

Charming with A Good Moral

This fairytale has a great message of treating everyone with respect and that if you put your mind to it you can be anything. What can I say that hasn’t been sa... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byleftbehindcrazed8 January 16, 2012


Beautiful. This is an amazing story with a great message! Plus, if you like it then you should go see the musical, HONK! (which I'm in, by the way...) with... Continue reading

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

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