Thursday’s Tale: U is for Ugly

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Actually, U is for Ugly Duckling, a story by Hans Christian Andersen, 1844.

Illustration from The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen. John Hassall, illustrator.

Illustration from The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen. John Hassall, illustrator.

“The Ugly Duckling” story is one most of us know. A mother duck is sitting on her nest and all but one egg hatches. The ducklings are adorable, but the mother continues to sit on the last, largest egg, despite being told by another duck to leave it. Of course, the last egg hatches, and the young one is very large and doesn’t look like the others, but he can swim and the mother declares “he is not so very ugly after all if you look at him properly.”

But his mother can’t protect him from all the abuse he endures from the other farmyard animals and even the girl who feeds the poultry, so he runs away.

One day he sees some beautiful white birds flying over head, but he does not interact with them. He is terrified by a hunter and his dog. He spends some time with a couple of families in their cottages, but each time must eventually leave. He is all alone for the horrible, harsh winter.

Then spring comes and he sees the beautiful white birds again. He flies to them, expecting them to kill him because he is so ugly, but they welcome him into their group. And he sees his reflection in the pond and realizes that he truly does belong with them. Even one of the visitors to the garden where he has ended up states that he is the most beautiful of them all.

“To be born in a duck’s nest, in a farmyard, is of no consequence to a bird, if it is hatched from a swan’s egg. He now felt glad at having suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy so much better all the pleasure and happiness around him; for the great swans swam round the new-comer, and stroked his neck with their beaks, as a welcome.”

I never realized how much torture the poor “ugly duckling” went through, both at the hands of other animals, people, even the elements, but in the end he is truly, purely filled with joy. I guess a lot of the story is symbolic of events in Andersen’s own life, and it is his story. It’s not a fairy tale that’s found in various versions in different cultures. It’s an Andersen original.

I think that there’s something universal about “The Ugly Duckling.” Most of us have felt ugly at some times in our lives or like we didn’t fit in with those around us, like the world’s against us for something we don’t even have control over. He was going to become a swan. He never was an ugly duckling, no matter what anyone else thought. It’s a good reminder not to let our circumstances dictate how we live, to believe in ourselves even when others don’t. It may be tough, but we can make it through, become the swan we are destined to be.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.

T is for Tonight

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Tonight is World Book Night. World Book Night takes place on April 23, 2014 and is in its third year in the U.S., after the UK launch in 2011. It’s celebrated today for a couple of reasons. April 23 is the UNESCO International Day of the Book, as well as Shakespeare’s birthday. It was also chosen in honor of Miguel de Cervantes, who died on April 23, 1616. In the Catalan region of Spain, the day is celebrated by giving a book and a flower to a loved one.

As part of World Book Night USA, 2,300 bookstores and libraries serve as community organizers for the book distribution to the volunteer givers. Its reach includes all 50 states, Puerto Rico, USVI, and overseas military bases.

The WBN picks are by a wide array of award–‐winning and bestselling adult and YA authors, as well as classics, books in Spanish, and books in Large Print. The assortment of 39 WBN titles is based on diversity in subject matter, age level, gender, ethnicity and geography. The books were chosen in a vote by booksellers, librarians, and givers.

Bestselling author Scott Turow said: “I can’t imagine any greater compliment to a book —or an author— than to know his work has been selected to welcome people to the pleasures of reading.”

Today, 25,000 volunteers from Kodiak to Key West will give away half a million free books in more than 6,000 towns and cities across America. World Book Night U.S. is an ambitious campaign to give thousands of free, specially–‐ printed paperbacks to light or non–‐readers. Volunteer book lovers like myself will help promote reading by going into our communities and handing out free copies of a book we love, often to those without means or access to a printed book.

I’m giving out copies of Hoot by Carl Hiaasen, a great book for middle-schoolers. Any body else giving out a book today? Which one?

Tonight, if you happen to see a giver out and about, say “hi.”

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Here’s the list of books being given away today.

The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Zora and Me by Victoria Bond & T.R. Simon

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

After the Funeral by Agatha Christie

The Ruins of Gorlan: The Ranger’s Apprentice, Book 1 by John Flanagan

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Large Print edition) by Jamie Ford

The Lighthouse Road by Peter Geye

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

Pontoon by Garrison Keillor

Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

Miss Darcy Falls in Love by Sharon Lathan

Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee

Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean

Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan

Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan

The Raven’s Warrior by Vincent Pratchett

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

When I was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago

Cuando Era Puertorriqueña by Esmeralda Santiago

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where’d You Go, Bernadette (Large Print edition) by Maria Semple

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff

100 Best-Loved Poems edited by Philip Smith

S is for Sandwich

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A to Z Letter S

I was trying to think of what I should talk about for S yesterday. I’m reading a book set in Sicily, Treasure Hunt by Andrea Camilleri, but I’m not close enough to finished to have a review up by the end of the day, but I did have a really good sandwich at the ballpark yesterday.

First, a bit about sandwiches. According to Wikipedia, although eating meat on flat bread has been traced as far back as 50 BC, the first written usage of the English word appeared in Edward Gibbon’s journal referring to “bits of cold meat” as a “Sandwich”. It was named after John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, an 18th-century English aristocrat. It is said that he ordered his valet to bring him meat tucked between two pieces of bread, and others began to order “the same as Sandwich!” It is commonly said that Lord Sandwich was fond of this form of food because it allowed him to continue playing cards, particularly cribbage, while eating, without using a fork, and without getting his cards greasy from eating meat with his bare hands.

I’m actually not a big sandwich fan, but there are a few I like. I like a good grilled cheese sandwich. My first choice is cheddar cheese with green apple slices. And I’ll have to do the jalapeno popper grilled cheese again soon. I had forgotten about it. Yummy!

Yesterday, though I had a Primanti’s sandwich. It was cheesesteak, not my favorite, but the choices at PNC are limited. There’s something about a sandwich made with good Italian bread and filled with coleslaw and fries that works for me. Delicious! My favorites when we eat at one of the restaurants are probably kielbasa and cheese or egg and cheese or maybe the fish and cheese.

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