The Sissy Duckling

( 3 )


Elmer is not like the other boy ducklings. While they like to build forts, he loves to bake cakes. While they like to play baseball, he wants to put on the halftime show. Elmer is a great big sissy.

But when his father is wounded by a hunter's shot, Elmer proves that the biggest sissy can also be the greatest hero.

Acclaimed actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein has crafted a heartwarming story, based on his award-winning HBO animated special, ...

See more details below
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (27) from $1.99   
  • New (12) from $3.53   
  • Used (15) from $1.99   

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (NOOK Kids Read to Me - No Edition)
$7.99 price
Note: Kids' Club Eligible. See More Details.


Elmer is not like the other boy ducklings. While they like to build forts, he loves to bake cakes. While they like to play baseball, he wants to put on the halftime show. Elmer is a great big sissy.

But when his father is wounded by a hunter's shot, Elmer proves that the biggest sissy can also be the greatest hero.

Acclaimed actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein has crafted a heartwarming story, based on his award-winning HBO animated special, about learning to embrace the special qualities we all possess. Henry Cole's gently humorous illustrations give it a new vitality. This is a book to share with all children, to help them understand that each one of them is unique and valuable.

2002 Lambda Literary Award Finalist, Children's/Young Adult.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Let's just say that Elmer's not your run-of-the-mill duck. He likes to decorate cookies, enjoys building sand castles instead of forts, and would rather put on puppet shows than play sports. Being different is fine for sweet Elmer -- he's as happy as a duck in water doing everything he loves.

So what's the problem? Papa Duck and the other guys just don't understand. Papa tries to teach Elmer to play baseball, but the results are simply disastrous for the unathletic duckling. That night, Elmer overhears Papa saying that the flock is calling his son a sissy, and he turns to Mama for some quality reassurance. After school the next day, Elmer suffers some tormenting from an enormous bully and flees instead of fighting, only to hear more scathing words from his embarrassed father. A dejected Elmer decides that his only option is to run away from home. Later in the forest, he's horrified to see that his father has been shot while the flock is heading south, but Elmer doesn't leave Papa to die -- he hoists him on his back, carries him home, and cares for him the whole winter! Not only does Papa get better; he learns during his recovery that Elmer is a brave little duck whose courage is something to be admired.

Noted playwright and actor Harvey Fierstein delivers a heartwarming story about diversity, based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale of the Ugly Duckling. Lovable Elmer's story will make readers cheer, and his difference will help children recognize and appreciate the qualities that make them -- along with other people in their communities -- special. Henry Cole's tender yet hilarious illustrations are just the right touch for Elmer, who even sports a pink flowered backpack and heart-shaped sunglasses. Elmer is one extraordinary duck whose "sissyhood" is something to celebrate! (Matt Warner)

Publishers Weekly
"Fierstein turns a gimlet eye to Hans Christian Andersen in this ducky tale," according to PW's starred review. "Cole makes a sympathetic hero of the skinny yellow nonconformist." Ages 5-8. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This plea for understanding those who are different goes far beyond parallels to Ugly Duckling stories. To his father's disappointment, Elmer would rather help around the house or put on plays than build forts or play baseball. He is a happy duck until the other "kids" tease and exclude him. It is only when the other ducks fly South that Elmer has the chance to prove himself a hero by doing what he can do best. He saves his father's life and makes him proud. Cole's ducks take on some human characteristics while still keeping their duck identity. His acrylic paint and colored pencil drawings focus on gestures and expressions, but also create settings which add to the emotional impact, from a sunny beach where Elmer happily makes sand castles to the dark woods that echo his loneliness. There is a touch of humor in the art along with the moral of the text. The relevance of the author's personal experiences as a homosexual can add meaning to the "duckling's" tale, which was an HBO animated special. 2002, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers,
— Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 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.
Kirkus Reviews
No, Elmer isn't like the other boy ducklings; they box and play baseball, he bakes cakes and puts on puppet shows. Yes, Elmer is a great big sissy. When his dad complains that Elmer has made him the laughingstock of the flock, his mom reassuringly tells him he is special and someday will amaze everyone. That day happens when the flock flies south for the winter. As the ducks take to the sky, hunters shoot at them, wounding Papa. Elmer, who weeks before had swum away from home when his dad declared him "no son of his," witnesses the horrible scene and rescues Papa, nursing him through the winter in the hollow tree he has made his stylish home. When spring and the ducks return, they are amazed to see Papa and Elmer, now a hero. Elmer is endearing with Cole's colorful and sprightly illustrations combining line and style of Disney and Paul Galdone. The cover sets the tone, with Elmer wearing heart-shaped sunglasses and skipping as others watch disapprovingly. Portraits of Ethel Merman and Barbie adorn his wall and he carries a flowered backpack. For those who don't recognize the author's name, the layered double meaning in the book's message will be immaterial while the familiar story in a new guise will resonate with any kid who's felt like an "underduck." This heartwarming tale, based on Fierstein's HBO animated special, is just ducky. (Picture book. 5-8)
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416903130
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 5/17/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 967,463
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD650L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.50 (w) x 8.37 (h) x 0.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Harvey Fierstein is a four-time Tony Award-winning writer, actor, and gay-rights activist. In 1983, he received two Tonys for writing and starring in Torch Song Trilogy, received a third Tony the following year for writing La Cage aux Folle, and another in 2003 for Best Actor in Hairspray. Film audiences know him best for his scene-stealing antics in Mrs. Doubtfire and Independence Day, and he lent his trademark gravelly voice to Disney’s Mulan as Mulan’s soldier friend. He has made numerous TV appearances, including an Emmy-nominated appearance on Cheers and on a classic episode of The Simpsons as Homer’s assistant, Karl. Children know him as the Easter Bunny from the Emmy-winning Elmo Saves Christmas. Harvey also wrote the book for the play Kinky Boots, which won the 2013 Tony for Best Musical.

Henry Cole has illustrated more than fifty books for children, including And Tango Makes Three, Oink?, and Little Bo in France. A former elementary school teacher, he now writes and paints full time.

Read More Show Less

Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Harvey Fierstein
Q: You usually write for an adult audience. What was it like to write your first book for children?

A: I have never been accused of being an adult. In fact, while others struggle to get in touch with their inner children, my challenge is to not shoot spitballs or run with sharp objects. Writing for a child didn't seem to be a struggle. I imagined telling the story to one of my nephews and put it down on paper that way. The hardest part was telling the story with the limited number of words inherent to a picture book. I had to trust the illustrator to convey much of the emotional life and detail. I am so very grateful to have Henry Cole as my collaborator. He was more than up to the task. The marriage of story and picture in The Sissy Duckling is proof of the adage, "The whole is more than the sum of its parts."

Q: Why did you use "The Ugly Duckling" as a model for your story?

A: What kid doesn't see himself as the geek among the cool? That's why "The Ugly Duckling" has always been meaningful to me. But in the original story the duckling must become a swan to finally be accepted. In my story it is not the duckling who needs to change, but everyone else. Elmer is smart and funny and inventive and brave. The world is a better place for having him a part. Ducks like Drake, the manly bully in my story, do not make the world a better place. They do not invent or create or redefine their environments. They simply plod along doing what every other duck does. I wanted to send the message: not only are sissies to be accepted, they should be revered and treasured. Without sissies the world would be a darker place.

Q: Are any of Elmer's experiences based on ones you had growing up?

A: I played with dolls when I was little. I played with the girls in the neighborhood. I had no interest in baseball or hockey, but would rather put on puppet shows and listen to show-tunes. Are any of Elmer's experiences based on my own life? YEAH! And I have had the great privilege of knowing a lot of other sissies in my time. Sharing this tale with them has been unbelievably rewarding. Holding a book in your hands that reflects your own truth is a validating experience. To have a book that says, "You are not alone. I know what you are feeling and I've felt it too," can be a lifesaver. I cannot imagine what a relief it would have been had I read this book as a child. I grew up thinking that I was the only one who felt the things I did. A book like this would have meant freedom for my spirit. I only hope that this book can reach children who need the same hug of acceptance.

Q: If we could see Elmer 20 years from now, what would he be doing?

A: Elmer, by the age of six, has already proved that ducks need not fly south to survive the harsh winter. I would think that by the age of 26 he would have cured cancer, invented a device that would aid in flying, opened a nice spa called "Birds of a Feather," and written a musical.

Q: Have you ever been called a sissy?

A: Yes. I have been called a sissy and a faggot and a queer and a Mary and a "momza" and a "faygella" and a "maricon" and a pouf and every other name that humankind has come up with to describe a man who acts outside the narrow masculine parameters. Some of those names have helped me know who I am. Some have hurt me and made me ashamed. All of them, in their way, are true. But mostly what being called those names has done is to motivate me to change the world around me; to make this a world where others like me need not be ashamed. Those words gave me the gift of outrage, and with it I strive to redefine the world.

Q: Why did you dedicate this book to the children of New York City's Gramercy House?

A: The kids who live at Gramercy House are a touchstone to my past, a beacon for the work that still needs to be done, and an inspiration to keep struggling against bigotry and hatred. Here is a group home created to shelter children who have been trashed by their families. Why have these smart, wonderful, fun, and outrageous children been tossed to the streets? Because they are homosexual. No other reason. What kind of a mother can do such a thing? A mother within whom the hatred for gays has so been instilled that it is stronger than the love she feels for her own flesh and blood. Bigotry is amazingly powerful. These innocent children are the clearest examples. But, while we fight this unjustified hatred and rid our society of its venom, someone needs to care for these children. That's where Gramercy House and other residences like it step in.

Q: Do you recommend any organizations that people can get involved in to promote tolerance?

A: All societies are slow in eradicating prejudice. It is often said that the longest journey is from the heart to the head. Laws, however, can be devised to guide behavior and protect minorities until the day when bigotry is no longer acceptable. I urge everyone to become involved in a forward-thinking political organization. Whether you can work as a volunteer or simply support the work with a donation, organizations are only as powerful as the number of members they can muster. The Human Rights Campaign has offices in many states and headquarters in DC. PFLAG is an organization of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. They do wonderful advocacy work. The organization that created Gramercy House is called Green Chimneys and their work with children is exemplary. It truly takes very little effort to change the world. Think about it. Just buying a copy of a book like The Sissy Duckling and donating it to a school library in your neighborhood can make an immeasurable difference. Try changing the world. You'll like it.

Q: What are you working on right now?

A: At this very moment I am acting in a movie called The Duplex from Miramax. It stars Drew Barrymore and Ben Stiller and is directed by Danny DeVito. I am beginning rehearsals for a Broadway-bound musical called Hairspray based on the cult classic film by John Waters. My latest film to hit theaters is Death to Smoochy. I am also involved in creating several other projects for stage and TV.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2003

    A really nice book

    A terribly fun book about individuality. It¿s about a dad so worried about what other people think and say about how he raises his boy that, he tries to persuade his son Elmer to do ¿masculine¿ things like play baseball instead of bake or paint. But not every boy likes to play baseball (nor every girl bake) and though an outcast Elmer stays true to himself and amazes everyone with his unique abilities and insights. It¿s a predictable but beautiful tale, written by an author experienced in being unique and being true to that uniqueness (brilliant actor, gay-rights-activist Harvey Fierstein). I find any book written form experience is a book worth reading, a book which speaks form the heart and ¿The Sissy Duckling¿ is no exception. I would even go so far as to say that this book, like many other children¿s books¿The Little Prince by St.Antoine and The Butterfly by Jay Singh¿is written for adults. Absolutely. It has a lot to say to people from all walks of life. A great book to read to your kids, to discuss in class, or give to someone terribly original who might need a little pick-me-up! Very pleased with this book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2002

    Warms the Heart and Inspires

    Poor Elmer the Duckling is just a regular guy trying to be who he is. Much like many ducks out there. This warming and much needed children's tale is a triumph in my opinion. Kids of all ages will enjoy this tale of a duck that is just not 'normal,' but is just as great as can be anyway, with a twist of family values to boot. A toast to author Harvey Fierstein!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)