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The Sissy Duckling

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  574 ratings  ·  117 reviews
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 do
Paperback, 40 pages
Published June 1st 2005 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers (first published May 1st 2002)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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This is a retelling of the Ugly Duckling as you can guess. Our protag doesn’t fit in with the rest of his social group. His dad rejects him and his classmates bully him. He is smart and solid in himself and he stands his ground. He doesn’t let others make him unproud of who he is.

He starts his own warm home that he is able to live in during the winter and no duck thought that was possible. As the other ducks are ready to fly south for the winter, his papa is wounded by hunters. The ending is pre
Jessica Brown
Jul 01, 2017 rated it did not like it
I don't know, man. I think it's just shitty. All around shitty.

This one was messed up. Poor Elmer doesn't conform to traditional gender roles, and gets called a sissy for it. He must escape bullies, only to find himself at home with a mother who tries to tell him he's special and defend him to his jerk of a dad who joins in on calling him a sissy and says that he's not his son...So Elmer runs away. His mom and family fly south for the winter, but his father is shot by a hunter. Elmer carries hi
Aug 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers Looking for Children's Stories About Gender Expression
I was reminded of this story, written by actor, playwright and gay rights activist Harvey Fierstein, and published back in 2002, after picking up a copy of Margaret Friskey's 1940 picture-book, Seven Diving Ducks , and discovering that the stern paternal figure of that vintage anatine tale had castigated his seventh offspring as a 'sissy,' due to his inability to dive. My, how times have changed! From a mark of shame (one which involves a threat of familial excommunication), in Friskey's tale ...more
Halley Todd
This story is an excellent tale about accepting one's self and others for what they are, which is perhaps an especially relevant topic to discuss with children due to the recent increase in bullying. Elmer is not like the other boy ducks. He likes to bake, paint, cook, and be creative. He does not like sports, and one day skips away from a baseball game. The other ducks call him a sissy, which infuriates his father who says some hateful things that cause Elmer to run away. However, when his fath ...more
Tim Snell
Sep 25, 2009 rated it liked it
Genre: Traditional
Copyright: 2002

Elmer the duck isn't exactly like the other boy ducks in the pond. In fact, he's nothing like the other boy ducks! Elmer enjoys doing the things he does and refuses to change, even when the others call him a sissy. Then something unexpected happens, and Elmer must make a decision that will affect him for the rest of his life.

"The Sissy Duckling" is a story that is full of great morals! It touches on being unique and not falling into specific "gender roles". It al
Aug 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is an interesting story about being different and being accepted for those differences. The tale is an fit for young boys who are ostracized for not being manly or macho enough, but our girls empathized with Elmer, too. I think most children at one time or another feel different from everyone else and it helps to show that we can embrace our differences and be proud of our talents, even if it sets us apart from the crowd.

The narrative is entertaining and the illustrations are colorful and
Mira Domsky
Too complicated for story time, but a really sweet book about a duckling named Elmer who doesn't like to do normal boy things. He does his own thing, and in the end, it works out just fine for him. I guess it's been challenged as a book that promotes homosexuality and nonstandard gender roles, and it could certainly be taken that way(which doesn't bother me in the slightest). But really, it's appeal is that it's a book about being different, and being different can be a good thing! ...more
Feb 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: q-is-for-queer
While I believe this book was created with the best of intentions I didn't like it at all. The titular character has to EARN his fathers love and approval by rescuing him instead of the father coming to realise that there was never anything wrong with his son in the first place.

Also, I find the teasing sequences quite harsh. If this is being shown to a child who is suffering bullying because of unconventional gender display it could be quite upsetting.

Hannah Givens
Jun 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was expecting something a lot more flip, but this was actually really good! More words-per-page to suit the slightly older kids who are experiencing bullying, and a good story too.
Scottsdale Public Library
Written by actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein, this clever picture book gives new meaning to the word, "sissy." Elmer, a happy and creative duckling, marches to a different drum, finding joy in building things, decorating cookies and playing make-believe, all activities that the other boy ducklings can't stand. After being bullied by his classmates and disappointing his father, Elmer decides to run away, rather than flying south for the winter. Happily, Elmer's unique abilitie
Jaeleen Parisi
Mar 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Sissy Duckling written by Harvey Fierstein, is a fun and playful children's book that describes how Elmer the duck is different from the other many boy ducks. The other boy ducks like to play and build forts, but Elmer the duck likes to bake cakes. The book then refers to Elmer as a sissy because he does not participate in the typical activities that most boy ducks do, however as the book progresses, Elmer turns out to be the hero (do not want to reveal why due to spoilers) even though he is ...more
Dec 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Elmer is different than most of the other ducklings ... he actually isn't into sports or most of the other things little boy ducks like. His mother is OK with it, but his dad has some serious concerns. Unfortunately, he is pretty vocal about it in front of Elmer. As you can imagine, Elmer's feelings are greatly hurt, and he ends up running away. That is not the end of the story, but I can say that Elmer gets a chance to prove that being different is not at all bad.

This was a pretty interesting r
Madeline Shogren
Apr 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: controversial
I chose this book for my controversial book reviews because just from the title I was able to tell that it was going to be an interesting read. The title is "The Sissy Duckling" and I relate the word sissy with a common insult that children use for little boys who are not into 'masculine' activities. The story did lead up to my fore thoughts about the story almost to a tee. The book is about a little boy duck named Elmer who is often made fun of for liking activities that little boys should not ...more
Lauren Carew
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Sissy Duckling is about Elmer and how he is a young duck that is not like all the other ducks in his town. This book was challenged because it has gay positive themes. I don’t think books that address gay positive themes should be challenged/banned. We live in an excepting world and it’s important that we explain to young children that it is good to stay true to yourself. Being different is not a bad thing. Elmer didn’t feel excepted by his own father and that was sad to read. I think this b ...more
Sheila Ainsworth
Like the story "Heather Has Two Mommies", the book "The Sissy Duckling" by Harvey Fierstein has a lead role named Elmer who is gay. In the story Elmer is called a sissy because of the way he dresses and acts. This book has proven to be controversial in different ways. The first is, that there are people who do not like books or topics about homosexuality. This is especially true when it comes to their children. In experience, if the parent does not like it then the child most likely will be enco ...more
Sarah Hulet
Nov 05, 2017 rated it liked it
The Sissy Duckling is considered controversial because of the homosexual theme it conveys. Another reason it would be considered controversial because of the word Sissy. Sissy is a word that typically has a negative connotation, however in the book, it is viewed in a more positive way.
Elmer is different from every other boy duck in the pond. I really liked that the author encouraged that kind of singularity. Elmer likes the way that he is and refuses to change his ideals and himself for the sake
Sivan N.
Oct 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is banned, and I can definitely see why.

Having said that, I really enjoyed this book. There was a lot of detail in the writing and plot development, which was pretty surprising for a children's book. The drawings conveyed emotions really well, and each duck had a distinct look, especially Elmer (the main character). There were twists and turns and I actually couldn't predict the ending with this one.

Despite all this praise, I probably wouldn't read this book with my kid. I think it wo
Sep 27, 2010 rated it liked it
A heartwarming tale of a young duck who acts differently than the other ducks and endures criticism because of his uniqueness. In the end Elmer is celebrated for his differences and courage. This would be a good book to read to spark a discussion about individuality.
Carolyn Andrew
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book "The Sissy Duckling", follows the story of a male duckling, Elmer, who is different from other male ducklings. This book is controversial for its undertone and its use of the word "Sissy". Elmer is a duckling who likes to bake, while others like to make forts.
I think that this book would be wonderful to use in a classroom. It encourages children not to name call and that our differences are what make us so wonderful. This book teaches lessons that teachers have taught for years such
Beverly Hendricks

The Sissy Duckling is an extraordinary book about gender norms and love. Elmer was a delightful duckling with lots of creativity. He enjoyed decorating, cooking, and the arts. Elmer was ostracized by his father and other male figures because he did not want to participate in sports like other male ducklings. Elmer finally had an opportunity to demonstrate to his family and friends it is okay to be different. I believe Mr. Harvey wrote this book to inform children it is okay to be di
Reily Moen
Nov 05, 2017 rated it liked it
"The Sissy Ducking" is likely a controversial book due to the negative connotation of the word "sissy", and the persistent name-calling throughout the story. Elmer likes to do different activities than all of the other ducks, such as baking and building sand castles. Therefore the other ducks make fun of him because he is not like everybody else. Even Elmer's own dad didn't want to have anything to do with him because he thought Elmer was an embarrassment. The first portion of this story sends a ...more
Emone Grant
Oct 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books which helps address LGBTQ books. This book is my favorite because it introduces the concept in not such an obvious way. A boy, Elmer, in the story who doesn't like all of the many things. Instead he likes to sew and nit and cook. He gets made fun of at school because he likes to do these things and sadly enough even his own father makes fun of him. His mother doesn't like the fact that his father teases him and calls him a sissy because she believes that everyone ...more
Audrey's Picture Books
I like the idea behind this book, but it falls into the same trap as many of its brethren. Its happy ending occurs when the protagonist receives validation and approval from the entire flock, including members who had previously ridiculed him. It's easy to see why this kind of wish-fulfillment has been represented so many times, but I question whether it's a good message to send LGBT children. Let's be realistic: their bullies are not going to suddenly back off; their jeering peers are not going ...more
T. Nicole  Naranjo
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: banned-books
I thought this was a super cute book. I saw this on a list of banned books and the whole time i was reading it, I couldn't see why. This is a story of a duck not allowing stereotypes to control his life. This poor duck has been bullied by classmates, fellow birds, and even his own father, however, does not allow people's words define him. Through the book, you can see the other ducklings views on what male ducks should be interested in and how they should act change and accept the duckling for w ...more
Khadija F Collier McGee
I bought this book because it was on the banned book boys and I enjoyed this story so much! It opened up a conversation about name calling and just be a use someone is different does not mean we should tease or make fun of them.
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: teachers
When working with students on understanding that diversity, this would be an outstanding book.
Mary Popish
Oct 30, 2016 rated it did not like it
Another banned children's book that I decided to read was The Sissy Duckling and I have to say that this book made me so very uncomfortable and I would never wanted this book in my classroom, and I would not read this book to my nieces. Elmer the duckling liked doing things that were not done by the other boy ducklings and because of this he is picked on by everyone including his own father. As I was growing up I was picked on a bullied because I was different so having a book that shows a child ...more
Aastha Gupta
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I thought that this book was different than most other LGBTQ+ books because it portrayed the harsh reality that family and others are not always going to be accepting of your sexuality. I liked that Elmer had at least one ally on his side, his mother. Even though she still flew south without him, she was clearly very concerned about him and was not ready to leave without knowing Elmer was at least okay. What I did not like about this book, however, was that just like most other LGBTQ+ books, thi ...more
Madison Skiles
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: banned-books
This book was banned for "gay positive themes." I think that reasoning is absolute insanity. By censoring this book, you are sending the message that every single person must be the exact same and anyone who isn't is grounds to be picked on and ostracized. That is the last thing that we should be putting in young children's mind. I think this is a great story of diversity and overcoming. It shows realizing one's true self and embracing that even through adversity. I think in this specific situat ...more
Megan Taff
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Summary: In this book, Elmer, a duck that is not your ordinary duck becomes courageous. Elmer has always been the duck that the boy ducks don't hangout with, that gets bullied at school, and plays games many ducks don't like to play. He had to listen to his friends and his Papa call him a Sissy. Then as he goes to school, and runs away from his bully, he is hated even more. This hate resulted in him running away from home. However, while they were running something happens to Papa, and despite a ...more
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Harvey Forbes Fierstein is an American Tony Award-winning and Emmy Award-winning actor, playwright, and screenwriter.

The gravelly-voiced actor perhaps is known best for the play and film Torch Song Trilogy, which he wrote and starred in. The 1982 Broadway production won him two Tony Awards, for Best Play and Best Actor in a Play, two Drama Desk Awards, for Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Acto

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