Classroom Teaching Guide

Odd Duck

by | Jan 21, 2018

Theodora loves her orderly, predictable, solitary life. When the unruly, fun-loving Chad moves in next-door, Theodora’s world is rudely disrupted! Despite her misgivings, Theodora decides to be gracious and make the best of a bad situation. Ultimately, Chad and Theodora find they have more in common than they think and learn that being odd ducks together is the most fun of all. Odd Duck is a lovely story about honoring what makes each of us unique and finding the good in each other.

Odd Duck is a hybrid of a picture book, using text as narrative, and a comic or graphic novel, showing the setting and action through images and the dialogue in word balloons. This makes it a great introduction for young readers to the features of a graphic novel.

Lexile Level AD600L
ATOS Level 3.0

Reading a Comic or Graphic Novel

  • Read the pictures and words from left to right and top to bottom. You can read them in either order—words and then pictures, or pictures first and then words—but be sure to read them both. Rereading is also important in graphic novels to see how the pictures and words work together.
  • Word balloons contain dialogue. The tail of the balloon points to the speaker. In this book, there are also word balloons that act as labels; they have arrows at the end of their tails pointing to the object or action described.
  • Slow down and take it all in. It is important to read both the text and the images and see how they work together. Encourage children to linger on each page and look for details in the pictures.

In the Classroom

  • When reading a graphic novel together it is necessary for everyone to have a good view of the pages. In small groups, students can share copies of the book. For whole-class reading, you can project the pages with a document camera.
  • Start by asking students what they already know about reading comics and graphic novels. Review vocabulary such as panel, word balloon, caption, and sound effect by finding examples in the book.
  • Pre-read the book by taking a quick picture walk through the first two chapters. Have students turn to a partner and predict what they think the story will be about and who the characters are. Have students make predictions based on visual cues.
  • Students may be tempted to just read the text and skip over the pictures, but in graphic novels the text and the pictures are both integral to the story. With that in mind, Odd Duck is too long to do a thorough read-through in one session. Fortunately, it is divided into six chapters, each of which is just right in length for reading aloud.
  • As you read the book together, give students time to look silently and carefully at each page before reading the words. Then you can have students read the dialogue, captions, labels, and sound effects on the page aloud. Finally, ask students to point out what they notice in the pictures, describing the characters’ appearance, the setting, and the action.
  • This book features some high-level vocabulary. Be sure to discuss any unfamiliar words, such as circulating, conceptual, inseparable, or gracious.
  • When doing close reading and discussing the book, ask students to provide text evidence from both the images and the words. Both are important!

Discussion Questions

  • How does the illustrator, Sara Varon, show Theodora and Chad’s personalities in the way she draws them?
  • How does the author, Cecil Castellucci, show their personalities in the things she has them say and do?
  • Look carefully at the settings (places) and objects drawn into the story. How do they tell you more about the characters?
  • Which duck do you feel you have more in common with? Why?
  • Which duck do you think the grocery-cashier duck meant when she said, “Look at that odd duck”? Why do you think so?
  • Do the ducks in the book look and act like real ducks? What are they doing that real animals wouldn’t do? Explain to students that in this story, the animals are anthropomorphized, which means they act like people. The creators included some aspects of the ducks’ true nature, but made up their personalities for the story. As students read the book, have them look for duck behaviors that might be true to life and behaviors that the creators made up.

After-Reading Activities

  • Give students a three-column chart with the headings Character, Words, and Pictures. Have them list Theodora and Chad in the first column. As they read the book, have then record things they notice about each character in either the Words or Pictures column.
  • Have students choose one page or chapter to analyze. They can use a Venn diagram to detail the information they get from the words, the information they get from the pictures, and the information that appears in both.
  • Ask students to summarize the story in six comic panels. Let them know that their drawings do not have to match Sara Varon’s illustrations—they just need to convey information. Simple shape figures work just fine (a large circle for a duck body and a smaller circle for the head) provided students add details to show the characters’ identity and actions.
  • Throughout the book, items and actions are labeled, such as “smelly old armchair” and “waving hello.” These are fun to read aloud! As you read the book, ask students to discuss how these labels add to their understanding and enjoyment of the story. Give students sticky notes and have them add more labels to their favorite pages.
  • Search for the use of repetition in words and images. For example, look at the pages where Theodora goes swimming and shopping, first by herself, and later with Chad. What do these repeated scenes, and the differences between them, tell you about the characters? Challenge students to think of a scene and draw it in two different ways.
  • Have students write a compare-and-contrast paragraph about how the two characters, Theodora and Chad, are both alike and different. Remind students to use text evidence from both the words and the pictures. Pre-teach signal words or phrases to emphasize the similarities and differences:

Alike: alike, same as, similar to, equally, in common, as well as, both, also
Different: but, while, different from, however, although, instead of, on the other hand


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