The Ugly Duckling… What Age Group Could This Possibly be Appropriate for???

From the title and the cover illustration you might think that this is a story you could read to your little children, say toddler through early elementary school… it’s not.

(massive spoilers ahead)

It’s 95% text (which is fine, though that in itself already makes it much harder for little kids/toddlers to appreciate), but also, the text and story line are both… very difficult for children.

Like many people, I was familiar with the general Ugly Duckling story… but I hadn’t ever (like now) read through the full translation. What you find is a world where only outward appearances matter. Everyone is not only mean, but downright cruel to the a bird because it is deemed ugly, and thus unworthy.

I always knew this was the main theme… I just didn’t expect it to be hammered in quite so thoroughly within a book classified as a children’s book.

The drawings are fine, neither terrible nor great… but the actions of the animals are cruel, and our protagonist at one point (near the very end of the story) actually wants to die. When he sees a group of swans nearby, he doesn’t think he’s one of them, he thinks that they will be the one to finally put him out of his misery, to kill him since he’d prefer a quick death to being an ugly bird who is treated cruelly, starved, etc.

First… is that the message you want to give to your children? That if they’re not beautiful they won’t be loved? And second, at what age group would it be appropriate to have a tale about a bird who wishes for death because he can’t stand being ugly (and thus despised)?

It’s not often I dislike a children’s book this much… but this is far more appropriately marketed for adults interested in reading a translation of the original than for children.

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