The Sissy Duckling
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The Sissy Duckling

5.0 3
by Harvey Fierstein, Henry Cole

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

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)

Product Details

Little Simon
Publication date:
Edition description:
Book and CD
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
10.50(w) x 8.38(h) x 0.00(d)
AD650L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

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

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The Sissy Duckling 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago