It’s a Kid Lit Blog Hop Wednesday! Happy Hopping, everyone!
Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon.
This is a graphic novel/ early chapter book hybrid full of the quirky charm I’ve come to expect from Castellucci (Boy Proof). I’d never read anything else by Varon until, just while writing this review, I pulled Chicken and Cat, a nearly wordless picture book off the shelf and looked through it – more quirky charm! But on to the story:
Theodora doesn’t have many friends, but she considers herself a perfectly normal duck who just likes her routines. She likes to swim with a teacup on her head to practice grace and balance, and prefers her duck food with mango salsa on top. She also likes to stay in her house for the winter, even when all the other ducks fly south. Then a new duck moves into the house next door. Chad is definitely odd – he dyes his feathers bright colors, plays loud music, and spends his time building large sculptures out of found objects rather than repairing his house. Theodora, very proper in her own way, is initially very put off, but when Chad also stays behind for the winter, they strike up a friendship. It turns out they have a lot in common after all, including their mutual passion for astronomy. Their newfound friendship is rocked to the core, though, when they overhear another duck calling one of them “an odd duck.” Which one of them is the odd duck??
I’d read several good reviews of this before I was able to take it home, and I wasn’t disappointed. The descriptions of all of the ways the two ducks break out of the proper duck mold are very amusing. For example, as Theodora runs her errands to the grocery store, library, and craft store, her selections are labeled and identified as normal or unique. There are even cartoon representations of the constellations labeled in the night sky. But Theodora also experiences some serious character growth, first learning to make friends and then accepting both that she is odd and that it’s ok to be different, all without feeling preachy. Varon’s art work, with bold curving lines and vintage-style pastel colors, do a lot of work helping us to feel like we, too, are close friends with Theodora and Chad. The words, while few, are carefully chosen and the slightly above-average vocabulary that one would expect of a well-read duck like Theodora. While the story is delightful enough to charm adults on its own, ages four to nine feels about right for the target audience, probably read in more than one session for younger kids. This is one to celebrate with rose hip tea and funky music.