The Sissy Duckling
reviewed by Judith E. Beckett, R.N.
by Harvey Fierstein
Simon and Schuster Books, 2002 (Ages 3-8)
Elmer is the “happiest duckling in the whole forest.” He’s your stereotypical gay boy duckling: helpful around the house, he likes to paint pictures, put on puppet shows and decorate cookies. Unfortunately, his Dad bullies him and he’s bullied at school, too. Through it all, he remains upbeat and loveable. This is a duck with a good attitude. His mom tells him he’s special and says “one day you will amaze us all.”
Things look grim when he runs away into the forest just as winter and the hunting season approach. When his father is wounded and left to die by the others, it is Elmer’s otherness, his “specialness” that enables him to save his father’s life, survive the winter, and emerge a hero in the spring.
Harvey Fierstein, acclaimed actor and playwright, writes duck dialogue that’s campy and fun. (When his Dad tells him he has to play baseball, Elmer says, “How about I put on a halftime show instead?”) Artist Henry Cole portrays Elmer in all his fabulousness, pink heart-shaped sunglasses, flowered backpack, and all.
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