Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Ugly Dumpling by Stephanie Campisi - A New Take on a Classic Story

Many, many moons ago I taught kindergarten in a daycare. I was young and had no idea what I was doing in the classroom. I didn’t even have a teaching degree yet, I was working on my masters at night. Each day I showed up and faced those twenty-five faces, trying to figure out what to do. It didn’t take very long to figure out that they were quiet when I read aloud. Quiet was a good thing. What to read was my next dilemma. I spent a lot of time at the library and the bookstore. I poured over books, rereading childhood favorites, adding new discoveries. What I found that my students loved was anything funny. Fractured fairy tales became a sure fired hit.

I remember bringing in a book called Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole. Goodness, they loved that book. I read it, reread it, and read it again. Kids would fall over on their carpet spot, holding on to their sides and laughing out loud. In the world of five year olds, no emotion is tiny. We then moved on to Prince Cinders, also by Cole; The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Scieszka; The Stinky Cheese Man, also by Scieszka; and more. If I was still teaching that age group, I would have a new book to share with them - The Ugly Dumpling by Stephanie Campisi.

When the folks at Mighty Media Press sent me Ugly Dumpling, I had to glance twice at the title. Of course this is a riff on the classic tale of The Ugly Duckling. Here we have a dumpling, not quite as “attractive” as the others. It is passed over again and again with customers choosing to eat the other dumplings instead of him. One would think that would be a good thing, but the dumpling isn’t feeling great about it. And then, along comes a cockroach to show the dumpling how beautiful the world is. Through their journey together the dumpling figures out a bit about friendship and learns a lesson in self-acceptance.

I think my former kindergarteners would be fascinated by this book. They’d worry for the dumpling’s feelings, wonder if he was going to get eaten, and be fascinated by his friendship with the cockroach. I’d love to read this with the story of the Ugly Duckling and compare and contrast the two stories with a group of young kids. I think they could get some lively discussions going.

The Ugly Dumpling is on sale April 7th.