In an effort to make comparing versions easier, I'm consolidating my Ugly Duckling reviews into one. First, a little recap:
Different in appearance from his siblings, a baby duckling searches for a place in the world until, finally, he discovers who he is and where he fits. A little harsh-seeming to some (overly-sensitive) adults, I still think this is an awesome teaching opportunity for kids AND a cute book. Besides, it's always been weird to me that stories that have lasted through generations and that didn't turn your grandparents into serial killers are supposed to be damaging to children now. Did we suddenly start making our kids out of spun sugar? Sure, the little guy is told he's ugly and chased from everywhere he goes... but there's the moment when the mother duck says "I love you anyway", the farmer who takes him in, and the moment he realizes he's a swan!
ISBN 072145304x (5 stars) - This particular version has an added bonus, with "picture-word matching" - small illustrations that match to bold text, and a great chance to start little ones on their way to recognizing written words.
ISBN 0785318577 (4 stars) - This edition, by Sarah Toast and illustrated by Susan Spellman - feels just a little meaner than usual, with the mother duck referring to the ugly duckling AS ugly. She does defend him later, but it doesn't quite make up for it. If anyone is supposed to tell you how ugly you are, it's not your mother. In this version, the images show the changing of the seasons and the ugly duckling survives a winter alone before his reveal as a swan, which adds to the sadness of his tale by giving a real sense of the length of it. Throw in the ridiculously adorable but terribly sad images of the little guy and you really feel his pain. The illustrations are a bit too pastel for my taste but they do add to the sorrow of the soon-to-be-a-swan duckling.