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Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon

February 27th, 2013 (04:17 pm)
hopeful

Current Mood: hopeful
Current Song: It's Not That Easy by Erin McCarley

Theodora has a happy, busy life. She enjoys being a duck. She routinely visits the local library, the grocery store, the craft store, and the pond. She likes swimming, reading, and looking up at the stars in the night sky. When a new neighbor moves in, she greets him with a cake she baked herself. During their first conversation, she is surprised by his appearance - he's not very tidy, and some of his feathers are dyed different colors - and his lack of manners. She thinks they are too different to be friends.

Nevertheless, Chad waves at Theodora every morning, and, when winter comes, he invites her to look at the stars through his telescope. She can name a bunch of constellations, but she's never used a telescope before, and she can't believe how beautiful her beloved stars look! The two ducks bond over this common interest and start talking. They find they have other things in common, and they become friends.

But one day, while passing by a group of ducks, another duck calls out, "Look at that odd duck." Theodora thinks they are making fun of Chad and she feels sorry for him. Meanwhile, Chad thinks they were calling Theodora odd, not him. The two argue, then split up and storm off to their separate houses.

Theodora slips back into her daily routine, going to the library, the grocery store, the craft store, and the pond by herself. Even though she used to do all of those things alone, now she feels pretty lonely. Do the two ducks become birds of a feather once more, or are they fair-weather friends? You have to read the book to find out!

Author Cecil Castellucci (Boy Proof, The Queen of Cool) often populates her novels and other works with offbeat characters who aren't defined by their unconventional ways but instead take them in stride and/or with pride. Odd Duck is a lovely collaboration between Castellucci's text, which is set in a nifty font based on Sara Varon's (Robot Dreams) handlettering, and Varon's vibrant illustrations, filled with lots of nice lilacs and yellows and greens in the exteriors and interiors, then blue tints for the winter scenes. I appreciate her attention to the detail, however small and subtle or purposely apparent; I especially liked the nesting ducks, the snow duck, and the books on Theodora's bookshelf, which included Make Way for Ducklings and Varon's own Chicken & Cat.

With less than 100 pages, Odd Duck is a quick read for upper elementary kids. It's a good story for kids and parents/teachers/mentors to share at home, at school, or in a small book group, where (hopefully) people are comfortable to talk openly about what it's like to feel different from others. Celebrate the hobbies, interests, and quirks that make you YOU, even though these traits might not be considered "normal" by some people. When people around me say something or someone is not normal, I immediately tell them that normal is relative.* Just remember, one person's junk is another person's treasure. Do what you love, love what you do, and be good to others. Keep on shining.

Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon will be released in May 2013.

* If the conversation continues, I will most certainly bring up the television show Leverage and the character of Parker, who is an amazing representation of an individual who marches to her own drum. Through the course of five seasons, she slowly learned more about the "mainstream" world and people but never lost what made her special. Never. She stayed true to herself, no matter what. But that's another story, and if you want me to blog about that character and that show in general, just ask. Really. Twist my arm. :)