Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Sissy Duckling, Harvey Fierstein

Title:  The Sissy Duckling
Author:  Harvey Fierstein and Henry Cole
Publisher:  Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing
Year:  2002
Pages:  40
Genre:  Animal Fantasy
                                                 Themes:  Family, Acceptance
                                                 Age Levels:  1st through 4th Grade

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.  In a campy, triumphant ending, the resourceful duckling loudly proclaims, "I am a big sissy and proud of it!" Ages 5-8.(From Publishers Weekly)

This book is lighthearted and fun on the surface, but addresses some read issues that students face when they act outside of what society considers "normal" for their gender.  Fierstein draws from his own experiences to create a main character that is lovable and easygoing, an completely happy being different than the others.  Fierstein shows clearly that the problem is not with Elmer's behavior, but with the prejudices and actions of others.  Why should Elmer have to change who he is?  Why shouldn't the other ducks have to open their minds?  And who made up these gender roles anyway?  I so appreciate that Elmer does not ever question his right to be who he is.  And that while he misses his parents, he knows that he should not have to live someplace where he is not loved for being himself.  Great book for teaching stereotypes and self-acceptance.

Teacher Resources:
Accepting Others Lesson Plan 
Character Education Using Children's Literature 
The Sissy Duckling Video 

1 comment:

  1. Books that teach tolerance are an important aspect of a child's education. This one looks like a fun way to teach this valuable lesson!