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)
"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.
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.
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)