Theodora is a very busy duck. Every day, she stretches, does vocal warm-ups (for perfect pitch), and swims across her pond with a cup of rose hip tea balanced on her head (for perfect posture). While she is a perfectly normal duck (thank you very much), she likes to spice things up with a little mango salsa in her duck pellets and duck mysteries and romances along with her “History of Good Ducks” books. And if she stays home while all of the other ducks fly south for the winter, so what? She’d rather ride her bike into town than fly all that way. However, Theodora gets a rude surprise when Chad moves in next door. He likes making sculptures, dyes his feathers, and splashes all over the pond when swimming. Theodora has decided that Chad is a very odd duck. But when he stays behind during the winter migration, Theodora finds that they might have a thing or two in common.
The structure of this book seems like a hybrid between a picture book and a graphic novel, with some double spread pages and others with a couple of panels. The narration mimics a picture book, but most dialog comes out in speech bubbles. The storyline follows a fairly predictable pattern while adding some extra splashes of adorable, like a snow duck in the winter. The book also combines the moral of liking your friends just the way they are with the moral of liking your own quirky personality. The subtext also eschews the judgment of society, and trying to be like everyone else, in a fun and silly way.
The cute art embraces the quirky nature of the two main characters while also giving bonus material in the background that invites a prolonged exploration of the book. Many pages have funny details like Duck mystery books, but one page even diagrams night sky constellations. Done in a very cartoony style, some pages feature multiple actions by the characters without the need to break up the page with panels, while others are very clearly defined. This is an interesting way to change the flow of the story, with the abrupt transitions signaling clear cut moments, and the continuously flowing action sequences illustrating a passage of time.
Odd Duck is a sweet children’s book that seems like it would appeal to young readers, though it may fade into the sea of awesome, quirky stories. Broken up by short chapters, it could attract some mid-elementary readers. However, with the picture dominated pages, it would make a fun read aloud book for kindergartners as well, though you might want to skip reading the bubble pointing to the “racy drink which good ducks certainly would not drink.”
by Cecil Castelucci
Art by Sara Varon
First Second, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: