Saturday, May 2, 2009

Book Review: "The Sissy Duckling"

Okay peeps, I promised to use this blog, in part, for book reviews, so here goes... It's Sarah's Super Silly (though Sometimes Serious) Story Synopsis! I'll be doing mostly adult fiction (not *that* kind of adult fiction; get your mind out of the gutter!), likely heavy on the sci-fi (since that's what I read), but my recent forays into literature (sci-fi and otherwise) have left me uninspired, so I'll be kicking it off with a newly favorite kid's book: Harvey Fierstein's "The Sissy Duckling."

(In case you're dying to hear more about my aforementioned forays, I just finished Peter Handke's "A Sorrow Beyond Dreams" which caught my eye because it was introduced by Jeffrey Eugenides, the brilliant author of "Middlesex." Plus with a name like "A Sorrow Beyond...," I was hopeful for something profound, possibly even something that'd make me weep, but instead just found it dull. And before that, I finally got around to reading "The Diamond Age," which I very much enjoyed right up until the weird and abrupt ending. Something about information transmitted via one big orgy? WTF?!?)

Anyhoo, so yeah, back the "The Sissy Duckling." This book is awesome. It's got everything you could hope for in a kid's book:

Engaging story, well written and well told. Check.
Cute illustrations. Check.
Challenges gender stereotypes. Oh, hell yes, CHECK!
Will likely make you bawl your eyes out the first few times you read it. Check.

It's the story of Elmer, a super cool young ducky boy, who sports a hot-pink floral backpack, and loves to decorate cookies and stage elaborate puppet shows. He's a super charming character: sassy and resourceful and smart... if only his father and the other ducks could see it. But no, instead they see a boy duck who's different from all the other boy ducks. In fact, there's not "a single other little boy duckling who liked to do ANY of the stuff that Elmer did. Not one." So they dub him a sissy.

It's super well written and heartbreaking to read (have I mentioned that I was reduced to a weeping puddle of goo the first dozen times I read it?), but, thankfully, it's got a happy ending-- Elmer rises to near stardom when he (*spoiler alert*) uses his kickass homemaking skills to become the first duck EVER to survive the winter without flying south!

Sounds awesome, eh? I'm actually not generally a fan of kids books that go out of their way to make a point. I prefer stories to morals. But color this an exception. Partially cuz it's got something super poignant and important to say. And because the "point" is impeccably woven into an engaging and funny story.

One of my favorite parts is when, at the end, Elmer goes out into the big wide world and realizes that there are, in fact, other ducks like him. Lots of em!

It's supposedly written for kids aged 5 - 8, but both my kids (2 and almost 5) love it. So I'm gonna say 2 - 8 :) Depends on the 2 year old. And the 8 year old for that matter. Funny that.

And, yes, the author is *the* Harvey Fierstein.


  1. i can vouch for its tear-jerkingness. we're still on a quest to find lots of non-traditional boy books. have you found any new and superb ones since you sent us a list a couple of years ago?

  2. Jenny, Wow, I'd completely forgotten about that list. I'm gonna dig it up and maybe post it here. And, no, I don't think I've found any new ones since then. I *really* like "The Boy Who Cried Fabulous" but I think it was on the list. How bout you?

  3. i'll have to look for that one, have i mentioned how much my son is into pink right now?
    we got one we like for eamon's b-day called woolbur
    it's not so much a gender related one, more like a let your freak flag fly, and approach life creatively book

  4. Woolbur sounds awesome! Ooh, it's in my local library system. Yoink-- just placed a hold on it. Pink is Eli's fave color as well. Has been since he was a wee one :)