cover image Odd Duck

Odd Duck

Cecil Castellucci, illus. by Sara Varon. First Second, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1- 59643-557-5

Castellucci’s comics-style chapter book explores a misfit friendship with lots of help from Varon’s bubbly, lighthearted artwork. “Feathers not well-oiled!” shouts a caption balloon, reflecting Theodora Duck’s alarm about her hipstery new neighbor, Chad, as she stands over him, “welcome” cake in hand. Chad also makes strange sculptures, has multicolored feathers, and scratches himself with a fork. But after an invitation (“Would you like to look through my telescope?”) and a revelation (“She had never looked so closely at a star”), Theodora discovers that Chad makes a good companion. Varon (Robot Dreams) has fun contrasting Theodora’s prissy femininity with Chad’s slovenliness. When a chance remark from a bystander leads to a rift (which of them is the “odd duck”?), Castellucci (The Year of the Beasts) handles Theodora’s remorse and the friends’ reconciliation with humor and insight. It’s more of a rom-com than a story about juvenile friendship, but silly details like Theodora’s swimming posture exercises (“Teacup did not fall once! A new personal best!”), the ducks’ ridiculously stringy arms and legs, and the careful avoidance of mush will click with the book’s audience. Ages 6–up. Author’s agent: Kirby Kim, William Morris Endeavor. (May)