Harvey Fierstein hits it out of the ball park with this fun, colorful, funny, snappy, semi-sarcastic book. I laughed throughout this book. From the opening, I loved, “Elmer was the happiest duckling in the whole forest.” Now, Elmer is a boy duckling who loves doing “girly” things including cheerleading, lots of pink accessorizing, and cooking pretty food, which makes him different from all the boy ducks but he is the happiest. He is so self-assured and comfortable with himself that when his father makes him participate in sports, he’s cavalier and dismissive of those preferred “boy” activities in which his father wants him to participate. That impressed me just as his experience of being bullied and rejected by other ducks, including his father broke my heart. I easily moved along through Elmer’s life, recognizing, although the parallel wasn’t forced—how strongly Elmer’s life parallels the lives of so many gay men—effeminate and masculine—who are emotional throwaways from their family and decide to run away.
But there’s a turn in Elmer’s life that men don’t usually get— he gets to be the hero and save his prejudiced father’s life after he is shot by a hunter’s rifle. Even though the duck community all rally around Elmer accepting him and celebrating him as a hero, Elmer declares, “I am the same duck I have always been. I have not changed. I am a BIG SISSY and PROUD of it!” Elmer’s mother and the third person objective narrator tell Elmer and the reader that Elmer is special not because of his difference but just because he exists. There is a universal message here of Elmer being special because of his strength to be himself when isolated, jeered, and accepted; he never bends to try to conform to what the other ducks consider normative duck behavior. This models so well for all children the special status of being comfortable enough to be oneself in all circumstances. I want to kiss Harvey Fierstein for writing this book. What a winner!!
Recommendation: Highly Recommended; Ages 5+
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda