Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

One Of A Kind

There are those who deliberately try to stand out in a crowd.  Their trademark is individuality in the extreme.  There are those who despite every effort, attempting to blend in with the group, will be like a beacon in the darkest of nights.

There is also a distinct group who neither tries to be eccentric or indistinguishable from others.  You might say they are the perfect example of ignorance is bliss believing they are normal in every respect. Odd Duck (First Second, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press) written by Cecil Castellucci with illustrations by Sara Varon is the story of conventional (she thinks) Theodora and her outlandish new neighbor, Chad.

Theodora's days were very busy.
In the morning, she swam in straight 
lines across the pond
with an object
on her head
to maintain 
perfect posture.

What some might call a routine or a rut with a capital R, Theodora thinks of as a typical day.  Groceries (mango salsa?), craft supplies (squares for quilting?) and library books (are you sure you want to check those out?) seem as right as rain to her.

Each night is the same as the night before; dinner and star gazing.  Each night she wishes the same wish on the first shining star.  Her life she loves though, being alone, is about to change.

The empty house next door has a new occupant who couldn't be more different than Theodora than if it is part of a cosmic plan.  Proper as she is, baking a cake and introducing herself is the only thing to do. But oh my, this duck is not proper, not proper at all. This duck named Chad is a messy, talkative, rude dude.

Theodora's only hope as the days go by is Chad will soon fly south for the winter.  She herself prefers to stay in the calming hushed quiet of the cold days.  Of course...Chad stays.  Theodora's life is about to change again.

During an evening of gazing skyward naming the constellations, Theodora finds herself accepting an invitation from Chad.  One spoken thought leads to another and before she knows it, as the chilly days pass, she and Chad have become inseparable---they're best friends.  Spring brings a third change to Theodora, in the form of a comment said aloud as the two of them pass by a chatting group of ducks.

Odd? Who's odd?  He's odd!  She's odd!  A door slamming argument threatens the newly formed friendship.  One day passes, two days pass, and on the third day, odd, even opposite-as-night-and-day odd, might be the best thing of all.

Cecil Castellucci know ducks and people, combining the attributes of one with the emotions and actions of the other.  Mixing a simple narrative with speech bubbles and descriptive, text-filled asides, this story of less than ordinary quackers, flows like a constant, babbling brook; sure and steady.  You can't help but feel the lightness of the tale, the humor evident in each of the six chapters.

The book's jacket serves to illuminate the personal qualities of Theodora and Chad; the front a close-up of both their peculiarities, the back a series of three activities.  Rows of full-color, square portraits of the ducks in the story pattern the cover.  Opening and closing endpapers, in three shades, teal, orange and gold, show heads of the characters first in once direction, then the other, among watery waves and lily pads.

The design and layout employed by illustrator, Sara Varon,  alternates between double page spreads, single pages and multiple panels on an individual page.  Her visuals are so expressive they not only enhance and interpret the text but tell a story all their own.  All the duckish details add to the delight; duck nesting dolls on Theodora's dresser, bunny slippers next to her bed, lily pad bedding, duck book titles, and Mallard's Moving Company on the side of the truck.

The body shapes of her ducks, their attire and accessories can't help but make readers smile; Theodora's hat, socks and gloves in contrast to the goggle-wearing, striped-scarf Chad with the dyed feathers.  Round, wide eyes and spindly legs add to the hilarity.  For the sentence, She and Chad would not be Friends, Varon uses two page, all white space except for a shocked Theodora holding a plate with a slice of cake on the left looking at Chad on the right scratching his head with a fork while yakking non-stop.  (I burst out laughing when I saw this.)

Without a doubt Odd Duck, written by Cecil Castellucci with artwork by Sara Varon, charmingly conveys to readers opposites, even odd opposites, can attract. This title is sheer, pure fun all around.  It  can't miss as a great read aloud.  Make sure you add this graphic novel to your collection.

Please follow the links embedded in the author and illustrator names to their official websites. This link is to the publisher website where eight of the beginning pages can be viewed.

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