Tag Archives: ugly

[Short Story] The Ugly Duckling

2 May

We’ve been talking about two versions of the same story in my History of Youth Literature class, and it reminded me of this short story I wrote for a test I gave my students last year on transition words. I wrote it after reading the book Ugly by Donna Jo Napoli, so I’m pretty sure her version influenced mine. It’s not complete because students were supposed to write their own endings for the last part of the test, so feel free to write some endings of your own!

Once upon a time, there was a duckling who was bigger and uglier than his brothers and sisters. As a result, his brothers and sisters all made fun of him. The sad little duckling always wanted to be first in line behind his mother, but his brothers and sisters always pushed him to the end of the line. Even though he was bigger than his siblings, he never fought back against them. As soon as the others got big enough, they pushed him out of the nest to make him live on his own. Their mother tried to stop him from going, but he knew that he was not wanted.

The little duckling had a hard time living on his own. No matter how hard he tried, or how far he walked, he could not find a place where the other ducks would welcome him. However, he knew that he had to find water; otherwise, he would die, because not only did water quench his thirst, but it also provided his favorite foods with what they needed to grow. Without water, he was truly lost.

Finally, the duckling found his way to a small pond. There were no ducks in this pond. Instead, there were large, white birds with long necks. “You’re a beautiful duck,” said the duckling shyly.

“I am not a duck,” said the bird. “I,”—he paused for emphasis—“am a swan.” The swan held out the middle of the word “swan” so long that it sounded as if it had two syllables.

“What’s a ‘soo-wahn’?” asked the duckling.

The swan laughed disdainfully. “Why, that is what you are, my dear boy.”

The duckling was confused for a moment, then looked down at his reflection through the reeds and grasses that grew along the edge of the pond. He stepped back in surprise. Looking back at him was a bird that looked just like the other birds that had gathered at the pond. But if all swans were like the one he just talked to, I would rather be alone, thought the duckling to himself.

Meanwhile, his duck family had started to miss him in the months that he had been gone. He had been ugly, but he had done a good job of cutting up grasses for the others to eat. Moreover, he had been so big that the other ducks stayed away from them; consequently, they always had a lot of space to swim and play out on the pond. After talking it over, his brothers and sisters decided to set out on a search for their long-lost brother.

How do you think the story will end? 😉


[U] Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech

24 Apr

I had never browsed through a books section on a quest to find books that started with certain letters before, and it was certainly an interesting experience. However, I was dissatisfied with the backup books I had in mind for some of the last letters of the alphabet, so one sunny Saturday afternoon, I spent half an hour going through the middle grade and YA section looking for books that started with U, V, and Z. I actually had a book in mind for V already, but I had never read it, so I needed to borrow it anyway (although I had an idea of what to write if I didn’t have time to borrow or read the book).

I found two books for the letter U, Ugly by Donna Jo Napoli, and Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech. I almost wrote about Ugly because I loved reading about the ugly duckling’s journey through Australia meeting and learning about lots of interesting animals–including humans–and about himself. But in the end, the charming angel with the Italian-ish accent won my heart with this line near the beginning of the book:

An angel does not need a bed, but sometimes I think the bed needs an angel.

And also because of the mention of “those marshmallow candies that look like animals” reminded me of Easter. lol…

(So it has only a little to do with the fact that I already mentioned Spinners, another of Donna Jo Napoli’s books, in my post for the letter B before I went on this strange hunt for books by letter.)

The book takes place in a Switzerland filled with Italians with smatterings of other peoples, and the angel learns English from them somehow. It’s a strange mix of squashed together words and made up words, with wonderfully delicious onomatopoeia like flishing and flooshing.

I am always wary of giving my students books written outside of a typical narrative style like Unfinished Angel is. At the same time, I want to expose them to different ways of storytelling and stretch their imaginations. Besides, it’s just a nice story with a hopeful ending. It also teaches about kids and poverty and family in a very real and sensitive way (this is where the hope comes in, too).

The non-traditional narrative may be hard for younger readers to fully comprehend, but I have seen reviews compare it to a child learning how to talk, so they may understand it better than we adults. It would be great read aloud (in an Italian-ish accent, if you dare!) to middle graders.

I know I knew who Sharon Chreech was growing up , but I guess the only thing she really had out when I was in elementary school that I’d heard of was her Newbery Award-winning book, Walk Two Moons. I don’t really remember what that was about anymore, but I remember my sister loved Bloomability when she was little. I’ve been having fun discovering her books as an adult, and read Granny Torelli Makes Soup and The Castle Corona last year, and now Unfinished Angel. All were quick reads that told very real stories in different but refreshing ways.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter U.