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Review: Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci

Odd Duck
By Cecil Castellucci
Illustrated by Sara Varon

First Second Books

ISBN: 9781596435575
Grades 2-5
In Stores May 14, 2013

*Best New Book*

Find it at:
Schuler Books | Your Library

I have this friend with whom I have almost nothing in common. Name a belief system – political, religious – we are incongruous. How are we friends? Once upon a time we lived across the hall from each other in college, and were in the unavoidable position of getting to know each other. That made all the difference. In the graphic novel Odd Duck, Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon show what happens when you actually get to know someone who seems different. Sometimes, you might end up friends. While there are plenty of odd couple stories out there, few are this likable.

Theodora lives a very neat and tidy existence. Routine, routine, routine. She’s happy with that.

Her wish was always the same. Theodora wished that nothing in her happy life would ever change.

You know what’s about to happen, right? Enter the new neighbor, Chad. Multicolored, messy, and loud, Chad is the antithesis of Theodora in seemingly every way. Friendship seems out of the question. Theodora, who never flies south for the winter, looks forward to a respite from her neighbor. But an injured wing means Chad will be sticking around too. Things begin to change when the two discover their shared love of astronomy. Just as their friendship is budding, the pair have a fight that causes Theodora to realize that she’s not as perfectly normal as she thought, and that Chad is a friend worth keeping.

The text is wonderfully economical without sacrificing character development. The plot is well-paced, allowing the relationship between Theodora and Chad to grow in a way that feels natural.

In terms of illustration, the adjective I keep coming back to is “sunny”. The rich pastel palate and loose line work borders on cute without coming off as precious.

Similar to Varon’s Robot Dreams, I see this as a graphic novel for kids who might not always be into graphic novels. Especially for the reader who thinks comics equal superheroes. It’s an age-old theme, but Odd Duck tackles it better than most. A fine addition to your graphic novel collection.

Digital review copy from Netgalley.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. lisainberlin says

    I loved “Robot Dreams” and this looks just as splendid!

  2. It looks more like a picture book than a graphic novel. Your comments about pacing make more sense knowing it is a graphic novel. Will definitely check it out. thanks!

  3. Sounds like a wonderful book and I love that it’s a graphic novel for a younger audience with a great message about friendship!

  4. Love both Castellucci (met her at NCTE last year) and Varon! Can’t wait for this book!!

  5. Sara Varon is a national treasure.

  6. Maria Simon says

    Thanks! You’re right, Odd Duck IS sunny. Theodora and Chad certainly are adorable together. I’m happy Cecil and Sara came together to bring them together!