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The Sissy Duckling Paperback – June 1, 2005


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--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Paperback: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (June 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781416903130
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416903130
  • ASIN: 1416903135
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 10.3 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #375,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Actor and playwright Fierstein (Torch Song Trilogy) turns a gimlet eye to Hans Christian Andersen in this ducky tale. Elmer, crowned by a wispy comb of feathers and wearing a pink backpack with daisies on it, is "one happy duckling doing all the things he loved to do," such as baking cookies and staging puppet shows. When Papa Duck, an imposing mallard, forces him to try baseball, Elmer promptly strikes out and heads for home, unfazed. Later, he hears his father complaining ("They all called him sissy! Now I'm the laughingstock of the whole flock") and endures threats from a school bully with a feathery flat-top and muscular chest. Elmer runs away and sets up housekeeping in a hollow tree, but comes to the rescue when his father gets shot by hunters and cannot fly south for the winter. Cole (Moosetache), assigned the daunting task of capturing Elmer's sensitive nature and the other ducks' bewilderment or scorn, keeps his zaniness in check. He makes a sympathetic hero of the skinny yellow nonconformist and suggests Elmer's wit in antic images of the duck kidding around with his convalescing dad. Fierstein handles serious and silly moments with aplomb, and shows Elmer staying true to his identity. In a campy, triumphant ending, the resourceful duckling loudly proclaims, "I am a big sissy and proud of it!" Ages 5-8. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 3-Elmer is not like the other male ducklings. "They boxed while Elmer baked. When they built forts, Elmer made sand castles. They had a football game, and Elmer put on a puppet show." When they call him a sissy, his mother insists that he is simply special, and "being special sometimes scares those who are not." Eventually, he is threatened by the local bully, Drake, and when he runs instead of fighting, his embarrassed father declares, "He's no son of mine!" Heartbroken, Elmer runs away and sets up house deep in the forest. As the air turns cooler, he sneaks to the great pond to view his parents one last time before they fly south and sees his father shot by hunters. He takes him home and nurses him back to health, and when the flock returns in the spring, Elmer's father boasts about his son's bravery and loyalty. Fierstein's book, based on his award-winning animated HBO special, sends out a positive message about differences and acceptance. The cartoon images are bright and colorful. The characters are engaging, and their faces and body language are wonderfully expressive. Snappy dialogue and enhancing details abound, from Elmer's flowered backpack, to the framed picture of his parents he packs in his pillowcase before his departure. With its universal message, upbeat conclusion, and snappy illustrations, this book is sure to be a hit with children.
Heather E. Miller, Homewood Public Library, AL
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Oh, and I like to think of Elmer as Sassy - willing to fly his own course - rather than Sissy.
Leah Marie Brown, Author
I would highly recommend this book to any parent - but especially those who don't want their children to grow up to be bigots...
Vaughn Roste
Harvey Firestein has written a book about being different, and learning to love and accept those who are different from us.
Metta Bear

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Leah Marie Brown, Author VINE VOICE on November 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The Sissy Duckling is a fabulous children's book. I write this glowing review not just because I am a fan of the supremely talented actor and author, Harvey Fierstein, but because the book is genuinely good.
The story of Elmer, the different, special ducking is unique. It is funny and touching.
Anyone who has ever had a son that was different from the other boys, a son who preferred dress-up to football, baking to Pokemon, will appreciate this book.
My son does not play football or rough and tumble sports. He would rather read about knights or pirates or Napoleon. He would rather dress up as a Ninja or King than kick a soccer ball. He is not like the other boys his age --- he is more sensitive and compassionate. He is fiercly loyal and terribly creative.
If you have a unique, special little guy in your life, this is the book for him.
Oh, and I like to think of Elmer as Sassy - willing to fly his own course - rather than Sissy.
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34 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Megan- College Student on July 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
What a sweet book! I bought it because I love ducks and thought the title was so ingeneous. I read it and absolutely fell in love. I am an assistant teacher in a kindergarten and I am thinking about reading this to my class. There is one little boy who wears high heals and plays dress-up. I want to teach him it is okay to be different.
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Dr. XXX on January 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I wish I had this book when I was growing up. I wish the people I had to deal with had this book, too. Maybe then I wouldn't have had to deal with such grief. I was a sissy, the biggest sissy at my school. I had no interest in sports (and threw a ball like a girl), enjoyed dressing up in my mother's clothes, and played with Barbie dolls. And, yes, when adolescence reared its ugly head, I realized that I was a homosexual.
Concern that sissy boys will become homosexuals seems to be the main reason sissies are bullied, and told to be more masculine. But the fact is it doesn't work. People are people, and some of us are sissies, and some of the sissies, and some of the non-sissies, will grow to be homosexuals.
This book acknowledges that people are different, and our differences are what makes a world. This book is must reading for sissies, as well as the parents and teachers who deal with them.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Alexandra N. Caporale on March 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I spotted this book in a store one day, and was enchanted. Adorable illustrations complement this simple story for children about accepting differences. While I guessed that ELmer is gay, I like how the book didn't actually say that. It described a different personality that is just different. Who cares what label goes with it, and who needs to assume? Socially, we're probably a ways off from arriving at that kind of comfort, but the harder we work to normalize it, the better. At the same time, there is nothing wrong with interpreting the story to be about sexual orientation today. The book will always be meaningful.

Some people fear showing this to their children because of the "mean faces" and "mean names," but children's stories are plenty dark aleady, sometimes even more so. I think the old "Ugly Duckling" is much sadder. Depends on the kid, of course, but it's your job as a parent to guide them through a story and explain things fairly. It's both a fable and a deeper story.

To the people who are barking about the "gay agenda": I feel sorry for you because you've resigned yourself to believing your ill-informed propaganda.

To the people who are "closeted homophobes", who try to bury their real criticism under complaints about the word "sissy" and use the oh-so-clever, "it's okay to be gay as long as they act straight in public": you're not fooling anyone and you're not helping anything. You're totally missing the point of the book and reading into all the wrong things.

Harvey Fierstein, great applause for you!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A. C. Wells on October 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I work at Borders, and while sorting the Kids section I came across this book. While I'm getting a bit sick of every other celebrity and their dog writing a children's book, Fierstein is hilarious, so I read it on my ten-minute tea break. It was just the right balance of touching and funny, accessible to kids and quips that adults will snicker at. Any child who doesn't fit neatly into a proscribed social role should read this book. It is simply delightful.
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27 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I got this for my five-year-old because I thought it would be a sweet book celebrating people's differences via a metaphor about ducks, with the "mean" ducks being no meaner than, say, Rudolph's dad, coach, and Santa in the Rankin and Bass Rudolph special. But this book was just way too dark for me to read it to my little guy. The father duck in particular is just downright nasty to the "sissy" duck and there's a suggestion that the other ducks are actually going to beat up "sissy" duck on his way home from school. While I know this horror is true for a lot of real-life people, I just don't feel my 5 year old is ready to be exposed to such ugliness. This book is more for older kids who already have heard the ugly term "sissy" or are a little less innocent than a 5 year old who hasn't yet conceived of homophobic hatred. So, I'll keep looking for a gentler picture book that celebrates different-ness.
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