Friday, February 07, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #38: Odd Duck by Castellucci and Varon

I don't get to read picture books as much as I used to -- my sons are fifteen and thirteen, and aren't interested in my reading to them these days -- but I still enjoy the form, when I get a chance to check it out. And when a publisher sends me a picture book, I do my best to read and review it no later than a year after I received it. (It's not a perfect system, I admit.)

Odd Duck comes from First Second, which started out doing graphic novels -- mostly for teens, or mostly primarily for teens, but shading off in different directions almost immediately -- and has since broadened its remit to include other books mixing pictures and words. It's written by Cecil Castellucci, who also wrote the graphic novels The Plain Janes and Janes in Love for DC's ill-fated Minx imprint. And it's drawn by Sara Varon, who's already created two very sweet graphic novel-y things very suitable for a younger audience in Robot Dreams and Bake Sale.

And Odd Duck is as sweet as Varon's other work, with a moral, which I might have expected from Castellucci's earlier work. (That's probably unfair to her: picture books have a tropism to moralizing like five-year-olds to cookies.) It's the story of Theodora, a duck who does not consider herself odd at all, even though she acts differently in nearly every way from her neighbors and acquaintances. One day, Chad moves in next door, and he's completely an odd duck -- feathers askew, always creating "art," the whole kit & kaboodle.

The story goes pretty much the places you'd expect it to from there, but that's the point of a picture book: it's a nice little story for a new reader, one who might perhaps worry that he or she is also an odd duck. Well, it's probably true: we're all odd ducks in our own ways. And Castellucci and Varon are here to tell the young and impressionable that there's nothing at all wrong with that -- more so, that being an odd duck is better than being one of the dull quacking masses. That's a valuable story to tell and lesson to give, and I'm glad Odd Duck will be lurking in libraries and classrooms for years to come, ready to reassure several generations of odd ducks.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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