Premise: Theodora might have some quirks, but she leads a quiet, perfectly normal life, in her own eyes. She stays home when all the other ducks are flying south for the winter. She practices balancing her teacup on her head when she swims and she practices flapping her wings for a time when she might need to fly. When Chad moves in next door, Theodora instantly realizes that he is odd. He is unorganized, builds strange creations in the front yard, dyes his feathers different colors, and talks nonstop.
But Theodora soon discovers they have some things in common. They like and dislike some of the same books. They like to watch the stars and eat some of the same foods. Through their time together they become good friends. But when they overhear someone mentioning that “odd duck” within earshot, neither of them is sure which one they are talking about. It might just be too much for either of them to either point a finger at the other or to accept that they themselves might just be an odd duck.
Themes: Odd Duck tackles the many aspects of friendship, including being alone, meeting new friends, enjoying spending time together, arguing over the smallest things, and reconciliation. Theodora was happy by herself, but when she meets Chad they hit it off and love doing things together, especially when they learn they have some shared interests. When they fight over the silliest of misunderstandings it will take some self-examination and humility to reconcile the relationship.
Not only does Odd Duck show aspects of friendship, it also highlights being yourself regardless of what others think and standing by your friends when others look down on them for their differences. When one of them is called odd, Chad and Theodora don’t know who it is that they are talking about, but it ends up hurting their friendship when they care what others think of them. It is only when they accept each other for who they are and realize that they might also be a bit odd that they are able to put aside those differences and go back to being friends.
Pros: Odd Duck does a great job quickly forming characters that stand out through some humorous things like Theodora practicing flapping her wings and Chad dying his feathers different colors. The contrast between these two ducks is obvious, but the way in which Castellucci and Varon manage to display through them a tight bond between friends, and the ways in which a friendship can quickly dissolve because of pride and shortsightedness and be reconciled out of true remorse is pretty amazing. The art is simple and colorful, but it makes the humor more pronounced without sacrificing emotion in the characters. It is in the understated moments where Odd Duck manages to evoke some real emotion.
Cons: Just as the title states, this book is a little odd. Though children will probably enjoy it in spite of being odd, they might not exactly understand all the little oddities it contains, such as putting mango salsa in duck food, practicing flapping, and dying feathers. There is potential for people to use this book to push unadulterated acceptance and approval of alternative lifestyles or for others on the opposite side to denounce it for a perceived political agenda. I think Odd Duck manages to sidestep those issues and deliver a clean, helpful message for children and adults to be nice, to accept others for who they are, and to be true to your friends.
Recommendations: Considered a children’s book, Odd Duck manages to have a lesson for everyone of all ages on how to treat others, when to stick by your friends, and what to think of yourself when others consider you to be odd. With some great but simple art, you’ll find yourself going back through to find the little details that Varon has sprinkled throughout the frames. Castellucci has written an easy to read, yet profound, story that doesn’t talk down to the reader or go down the road of being preachy or cheesy when it comes to giving a message of acceptance of others’ differences. Many people could do themselves well to read this charming little gem of a story, however odd it may be.