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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Odd Duck, by Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon. First Second, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2013. $18.50 ages 5 and up

"The new neighbor set up all kinds of gadgets and sculptures that were both modern and strange. After a few days it was clear the new duck intended to stay. Theodora prided herself on being a gracious bird. She was determined to make the best of a bad situation. It was time to meet this new duck."

There is a pattern to Theodora's days. She rarely veers off course; and she is happy with that! She's busy, and accomplished, and settled. Then, Chad moves in next door. Chad has nothing in common with Theodora. Nothing!

Chad is an artiste. He creates sculptures from objects others leave behind, or throw out. He colors his feathers. He is an avid dancer, is not mannerly, and talks a lot of gibberish as far as Theodora is concerned. Friendship is NOT an option!

Her only hope is that Chad will soon fly south with all of the other ducks. No such luck. When the leaves have fallen, the pond has quieted, and the rest of the ducks have gone, she learns that Chad has hurt his wing and must stay behind for the winter. What to do now?

Their routines had nothing in common:

"In winter, every morning, Theodora would
do her duck exercises in the warmth and
safety of her bathtub.

But not Chad.
He did not seem to notice the cold at all."

As winter progresses, the two begin to find friendship and a genuine joy in being together. The telling is as unique as each of its characters. Readers will get the clear feeling that it is perfectly fine to be who you are. Despite their differences, both Theodora and Chad have a very clear style of their own. They may differ in many ways but their love of the stars is the glue that binds them learning from the other and both enjoying time spent stargazing. Life with a friend is so much better than living a lonely life. Funny how that works so well when each thinks the other is 'odd'.

There are so many tiny details to notice in Sara Varon's winning artwork. The characters are happy and settled into being who they are and it shows. Kids will love the graphic style. The palette of pastel colors works well and the changing perspectives will keep readers and listeners attentive and engaged. A gem of a book that is sure to be a hit with young readers!

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