Odd is good.


Can a picture book be 96 pages long? ODD DUCK by Cecil Castellucci and illustrated by Sara Varon may be just that; a 96 page picture book. It is published by First Second Books, publisher of  graphic novels. I guess it could be a graphic novel for the picture book set. It reads like a picture book with several pages of panels that could give it that graphic novel feel. No matter, call it what you will, it is a wonderful, engaging read—with pictures.

Theodora is a duck living a content life in her home next to a pond. Her days are filled with things she enjoys, from her morning exercises, her daily swim in the pond, running errands in town, and finally after a fine supper, gazing at the constellations. Life could not be better. The day Chad moves into the empty house next to hers everything changes

Chad is many things Theodora is not. Unkempt, wild and maybe a little bit too engaging.

wavingHelloTheodora, being the polite duck she is, welcomes Chad to the neighborhood, relieved to know he’ll be flying south for the winter like all the other ducks and she can enjoy ‘the calm quiet of the pond in winter.” Only he doesn’t.


As different as they are, they also share many interests. As they discover these, slowly a friendship forms and becomes stronger and stronger. They become inseparable till they both overhear some other ducks in town make a not-so-nice comment directed at one of them.

lookAtThatDuckEach thinks it was directed at the other and quickly their friendship falls apart. Theodora and Chad have some reflecting to do…


This is a charming story of friendship found, friendship trials and friendship saved. It is also a lesson in how odd is good. Castellucci’s writing sets each changing mood in the book simply but completely. Theodora and Chad are immediately endearing and believable as two unique individuals. Varon’s illustrations are wonderful. A limited, desaturated palette under  loose brush lines, hand drawn patterns, and few textures feel so familiar and comfortable. I’m not sure whether to credit Castellucci or Varon for the little scribbled descriptives in the illustrations (general malaise, dirty dishes, heavy heart) but they are scattered throughout and chuckle-worthy. Her illustrations make me want to visit Theodora and Chad’s world. I originally fell in love with Varon’s work in Robot Dreams, a graphic novel she wrote and illustrated from 2007. I have admired her art immensely since then.


Again, at 96 pages it may or may not be a picture book—it’s going to take you a little longer to read. But I’m not sure if I should call it a graphic novel either. I’ll just call it a most enjoyable indulgence, suggest you pick it up, settle in, and treat your self to a lovely little escape.


Underneath the dustcover.

Embrace your odd!

-kevan atteberry



  1. This book looks fantastic! I am going to reserve it at the library right now.

  2. I love this book- and Sara Varon’s work in general! I love the little scribbled descriptives- they are quirky, engaging, humorous, and heartfelt. Your review is awesome and I am so happy to see this little treasure featured!

  3. Ooh, I love this goofy pair. Making a note for my next library run. Thanks, Kevan!

  4. LOVE this book! Find myself recommending it for different reasons all the time!

  5. I just requested it from my library. Looks grand.

  6. Looks like fun. I’ve checked it out also. Do you know how the illustrations were done? Digital? Marker? Watercolor? Thanks.

  7. This looks really appealing in so many ways–the friendship, the art, the unusual format. Looking forward to checking it out!

  8. Looks great — thanks for sharing this one! I like the mashing up of the PB with the graphic novel. Reminds me of Andy Runton’s OWLY series and Christian Slade’s KORGI books — though I guess those two are almost more like graphic-novel-meets-beginner-reader…

  9. Oh how I love picture books that are “outside the box” and this one looks like a winner! Thanks so much for sharing. I’ll be back at the library tomorrow.

  10. I love this hybrid PB/graphic novel from publisher First Second! Odd Duck is so cleverly done and, when it comes down to it, it’s just a great story about friendship. When we judge books by their covers, we miss out on a lot of fun! Odd is good, Kevan. Great post.

  11. Can’t wait to check it out, Kevan! Love the peek under the dustcover.

  12. This looks and sounds wonderful! Thank you, Kevan!

  13. Rita D. Russell

    Can’t believe I missed this gem a couple of years ago. Thanks, Kevan, for the heads-up.

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