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As you might have guessed from the title and cover, UGLY is the ugly duckling story revisited but with a Tasmanian twist. In this version, the ugly duckling is helped by inhabitants of Tasmania on his journey to discovering the truth about himself.

We first meet Ugly while still in his shell, trying to be hatched. His mother keeps assuring doubting ducks that this egg is completely normal and will hatch into a lovely, perfect duckling. This doesn't happen, and so everyone calls him "Ugly."

In a painful paragraph, Ugly's mother finally has to order him out of the flock and send him off on his own before the other ducks attack him. On his lonely journey, Ugly meets a wallaby who carries him around on his back.

After leaving the wallaby, Ugly teams up and lives with a wombat, snuggling happily into the tunnels the wombat has dug. Ugly even loves to sleep in the wombat's pouch, which is usually reserved for baby wombats. Once, when Wombat is out of her tunnel, a quoll begins to attack her. (A quoll, in case you've never heard of one, is about the size of a dog, has a reddish-brown spotted body and a bushy tail.) Ugly sees and hears what is happening, and bravely sticks his head out of the tunnel and takes a big bite out of the quoll's tail, saving Wombat's life.

After several other adventures with different Tasmanians, human and animal, Ugly is finally taken by a friendly, lovely Tasmanian possum to a lamentation of black Tasmanian swans. What they tell him will forever change the way he views himself.

UGLY might have been a bit more interesting if author Donna Jo Napoli had given more details about the various Tasmanian animals, which most readers know little about. It is especially suitable for younger readers who may have just started reading longer books.

Reviewed by Robert M. Oksner on January 1, 2006

by Donna Jo Napoli

  • Publication Date: January 1, 2006
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • ISBN-10: 0786837535
  • ISBN-13: 9780786837533