CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 41. . . .June 20, 2014
The Lovely Duckling. (Tadpoles: Fairytale Twists).
Penny Dolan. Illustrated by David Boyle.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2014.
32 pp., pbk., hc., pdf & html, $8.95 (pbk.), $20.76 (RLB.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-0480-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-0445-4 (RLB.).
Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 2-6.
Review by Teresa Iaizzo.
Beauty wasn’t ever the fastest flier or the best swimmer or the deepest diver. But she learned to have lots of fun and make friends – and that was more important to the little duck.
The Lovely Duckling is an imaginative retelling of the classic fairytale The Ugly Duckling. Part of Crabtree’s "Tadpoles: Fairytale Twists" series, the story centres on a family of four ducklings who are all born differently, except for Beauty, the story’s protagonist.
In the beginning, readers are introduced to Beauty’s siblings, three ducklings who are not considered “traditionally” beautiful. One sibling has dark feathers, the other large feet, and the third has a big beak. The other ducks on the farm criticize their looks until Beauty is born. Beauty is perfect, the very opposite of the ugly ducklings that came before her. Her feathers, feet and beak are all flawless. As such, she becomes the centre of attention on her farm. However, Beauty soon learns that true beauty is only skin deep as her siblings receive accolades for their many talents while Beauty feels left out. In the end, Beauty learns what it really means to feel beautiful as her family accepts her for what she truly is, flaws and all.
The central theme of The Lovely Duckling mirrors that of the traditional fairytale The Ugly Duckling: true beauty is only skin deep, and it is what is on the inside that counts. At its core, the story is all about tolerance and difference. By flipping the story on its head, Dolan has added a new twist to this classic tale, one that children of all ages will understand.
Moreover, David Boyle’s illustrations really bring the story to life. The vibrant colours paired with the artist’s bold strokes add texture to the story. Readers can actually see the joy in the ugly ducklings’ faces as they learn to fly, swim, and dive on their own. On the other hand, they can also see the pain on Beauty’s face as she is left out of all these adventures. Ultimately, it is the congruence between the text and illustrations that really makes the story shine.
Lastly, I really appreciate Crabtree’s commitment to children’s literacy as exemplified in the tips and games found at the back of the book. Through interactive puzzles and reading tips for parents, the publisher is not only helping to build narrative skills in children, but they are also making story time fun. Overall, I highly recommend The Lovely Duckling to toddlers and their parents who want to add a twist to their fairytale collections.
Teresa Iaizzo is a Senior Library Assistant with the Toronto Public Library.
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