Duckworth, the Difficult Child

Editorial Reviews:

“What first appears to be a Goreyesque cautionary tale for troublesome children comically turns the tables to target inept parents instead. . . . Sardà plays up the story’s situational humor in her detailed, vintage-toned watercolors, ensuring that kids get the joke that the parents are the difficult ones, not Duckworth. A lightly macabre, utterly amusing read.” (Booklist )


“Sometimes with children’s books, with the very best of books, a perfect collaboration of author and artist comes together to celebrate a truly terrific story. Such is the case with Michael Sussman (author) and Júlia Sardà (illustrator) in their brilliant co-creation, Duckworth, The Difficult Child.” (Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers’ Favorite)


“Sussman’s story is marvelous, and Julia Sarda’s amazing illustrations lend power and an exotic touch of fantasy to the story. Each panel is a work of art, suitable for framing and definitely worth spending a bit of time over while sharing the book with a child. A grand selection for storytime, this book is also a suitable primer for a new reader. Duckworth, the Difficult Child is most highly recommended.” (Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite)


Dark as a narration by Poe, deliciously absurd as a work of Ionesco, brilliant and thoughtful… (Librerías Oletvm)


“Sussman’s sendup of modern parenting (he is a clinical psychologist), dedicated to ‘difficult children everywhere,’ is well paired with illustrator Júlia Sardà, who is capable of pulling off a quirky Gorey-esque vibe. She brings distant, angular lines and cool colors to Duckworth’s home and even to his parents, which are effectively juxtaposed with the curving, sensual lines and vivid orange of the mammoth snake. Sardà does offbeat well. . . . There’s an understated humor to Duckworth’s ability to tolerate [his parents] and his necessity for self-sufficiency. After all, in the end, Duckworth saves himself.” (BookPage)


“A tongue-in-cheek parable about dealing with difficult parents, Duckworth the Difficult Child is a welcome addition to school and public library children’s picture book collections.” (Midwest Book Review)


“Sardà’s illustrations blend a gothic sensibility with an art deco style.” (Kirkus Reviews )


Five-Star Amazon & Goodreads Reviews:


Duckworth is like nothing else out there. It’s fresh and fun and strange and hilarious. It threads humor and heart in such a way that you finish reading it and you can’t wait to read it again. In fact, my very particular 6yo daughter had me read it three times the first night! Bravo to this team for creating something so unique. –Chelsea Lin on August 6, 2019


The text and art are a perfect match, and the characterization for this wonderfully unique child with oblivious parents is full of humor and heart. –By Beth Anderson on July 24, 2019


Sussman’s dry humor and Sardà’s rich illustrations make this one deliciously dark tale. Fans of Klassen’s I WANT MY HAT BACK will be equally charmed by the story’s unexpected turn of events. C.L. Murphy on July 25, 2019


I loved this one. It reminded me so very much of Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library stories—especially Pierre, which was my favorite—and the illustrations are gorgeous and full of tiny details that reward re-reading. –By Billie on Feb. 10, 2019


DUCKWORTH, THE DIFFICULT CHILD, by Michael Sussman, a picture book illustrated by Júlia Sardà, is full of the humor we expect from this writer… Sussman draws on his life-experience as a therapist to depict the ambience of ‘difficult,’ self-preoccupied parents. The delightful text is illustrated by gorgeous illustrations featuring a larger-than-life shining red-orange dragon-like snake. Both children and adults will enjoy this one. –By Wordwizard on June 18, 2019



Editorial Reviews:

The book itself is crazy; crazy cool. …And there is humor. Lots of funny stuff delivered with the offhand manner of a master comic’s best throw-away lines. …But it is the author’s genuine creative skills that make his through-the-looking-glass words so entangled and enticing, and makes of his wonderful experiment such a grand success. —Joel R. Dennstedt, Readers’ Favorite ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


 For readers who are eager to have their imaginations shattered into a thousand pieces, this bizarre and fascinating novel by Michael Sussman is sure to please. …There are so many quirks and queer moments in the book that your brain is constantly engaged – a rarity for any book chapter or well-crafted paragraph, let along an entire novel. …In the space between dreams and imagination, between clarity of thought and insanity, this bizarre collection of vignettes exists – and it’s truly a pleasure to explore. …To get as deep and heady as Sussman does, yet manage to maintain an edge of wisdom with the whimsy, takes a very talented author.  —Self-Publishing Review 4.5 stars

Sussman (Crashing Eden, 2012, etc.) plays with notions of irrationality and reality in ways that can, at best, be very entertaining. He has a particular gift for nonsense words and striking images, such as a revolving graveyard that echoes a deadly Ferris wheel. —Kirkus Review


Tweets by Teller (Of Penn & Teller):

“I’m not partial to much modern fantasy writing, but the writing here is so Lewis Carroll/Anthony Burgess that I’m finding it irresistible.”

“A novel or a carnival mirror maze? I don’t know, but I’m more than halfway through and having a blast.”


Five-Star Amazon & Goodreads Reviews:

It’s a literary rollercoaster… A brilliantly written, fabulously unique and utterly absorbing novel, I couldn’t put it down! —By Catherine on August 17, 2017


I had to laugh when I finished reading this. My Kindle brought up a list of “Other books like Incognolio.” Let me assure you there are no other books like this. …I suspect it will have a cult following for decades to come. —By Carleton Chinner on Sept. 30, 2017


This book is a real kick in the head! …you should not miss this one, especially if you like deep belly-laughs from your fiction and a modern vaudevillian sensibility. —By Iven Lourie on Oct. 3, 2017


Incognolio is full of well-rounded corners and square-circles: Joyce-like invented words, with plots and subplots that come and go as they please. The book has depth and it’s fun—a rare combination. I highly recommend this book to readers in search of fresh air. —By Art Johnson  on August 12, 2017

WTF did I just read?? …I’ve never read something so mind-boggling and interesting. —By Cassandra Dellinger on August 26, 2017


Freaking crazy amazing. By the time you think you’ve figured any part of it out, it all changes again. Despite the plot not being a totally straight line, it’s absolutely compelling. I couldn’t put it down! —By Ashley R. on September 11, 2017

I am a big fan of the Bay Area (once New York City) poet Diane di Prima and especially her strident poem RANT in which she repeats her refrain: THE ONLY WAR THAT MATTERS IS THE WAR AGAINST THE IMAGINATION. It’s clear which side of that battle Michael Sussman is on, and I’d make him a battalion commander.” —By David Fortnight on October 3, 2017


Crashing Eden

On-Line Reviews:

Compelled By Words ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

“I wish I could give this book ten stars! I could not put it down. … If I were to recommend ANY book to someone who hasn’t yet ventured into the teen genre, it would be this one.”

Fiction for a New Age ★ ★ ★ ★

“Sussman is a skilled writer. Crashing Eden offers rich characterization, nail-nibbling tension, and plenty of action for the metaphysical fiction audience.

Imagine an engrossing tale that samples the angst of  “Catcher in the Rye” and insight of “Ordinary People,” barrels toward “Johnny Mnemonic,” and then smoothly sails past “The Celestine Prophecy” toward a truly unexpected climax. Michael Sussman’s young-adult visionary fiction builds upon these themes to create a truly original novel of technical innovation, psychological insight, and spiritual growth.”

Literary R&R

“Crashing Eden is written with much intelligence and sprinkled with great humor. It is ultimately a feel good story of the possibility of a nearly perfect existence in a badly scarred world. Beautiful, lyrical, and endearing, it will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.”

A Word Please ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Crashing Eden took me on an entertaining and thought-provoking journey, and I enjoyed every moment. The story is part fantasy and part mystery, with splashes of suspense, inspiration, and even romance. I loved the characters.”

Bookingly Yours ★ ★ ★ ★

Crashing Eden has a good plot and likeable characters. While the story is mainly about the lost paradise, Eden, the author manages to incorporate a family story that grabbed my attention till the last pages of the book.”

Otto Grows Down 

Print Reviews:

School Library Journal: “With humor and poignancy, author and illustrator portray an age-old rite of passage.”

Kirkus Reviews: “The deadpan drollery of Magoon’s cartoon-like illustrations should appeal to adults as well as children, matching the quirkiness of Sussman’s premise. …Genuine issue gracefully handled.”

Austin-American Statesman: “Michael Sussman’s debut made the fairy-tale rise to published books on its own merits, and when you read it, you see why. …Along the way, the book hits just the right notes of childish frustration at a new sibling–sassy, not snotty. (Sussman is a clinical psychologist, which likely explains his eerily accurate mapping of Otto’s id-urges.) And though the story ends up with Otto’s newfound appreciation for Anna, it’s a sweet one rather than a saccharine one.”

New England Reading Association Journal: “Clinical psychologist Sussman’s first book for children is spot-on in its success capturing the voice and emotions of the new older sibling. …This book will entertain children whether or not they share Otto’s experience, and would be great for a bibliotherapeutic purpose as well.”

Blog Reviews:

Writing for Chidren (While Raising Them):
Otto Grows Down Raises Bar for Picture Book Writers”

“I won’t tell you where it ends–or where it begins–but let me just say: every editor who sent Mr. Sussman a rejection probably wishes they could make time go in reverse, too.”

“It’s easy to imagine this story becoming a timeless classic.”

The Mom Blog:
“Probably one of the most thought provoking picture books I have ever read.”

“I hope I can say this clearly enough. My little boy LOVES this book.
No. That was pathetic. Let me try again.
–He sprinkles this book on his cereal for breakfast.
–He sleeps with it.
–His older sister likes it just as much and often BEGS to read it to him!
–I’m not exaggerating. He would forgo a trip to the park, for an extra reading of Otto Grows Down.
–It travels on vacation with us.
–He plans to name his firstborn child Otto, regardless of gender.”

A Curious Calling

“How can I convey the excitement engendered by this book? Sussman makes a unique contribution to the literature of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis with its publication. . . . this book is both stimulating and challenging. It should be required reading in training programs for psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. Sussman has made a unique and valuable contribution to the literature of the psychotherapy process.”
Frederick S. Mittleman, M.D.
Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic

“. . .an excellent review of how therapists have understood their own motivations for practicing psychotherapy.”
Stuart Schneiderman
New York Times Book Review

“Nowhere is there a more complete and coherent explication of the myriad of forces that lead all of us into careers as psychotherapists. . . . Readers will respond to Dr. Sussman’s book with sighs of recognition over and over again as they find aspects of themselves jumping out at them from the pages of the book.”
Glen Gabbard, M.D.

“The author is to be congratulated for his orderly approach and his courage to delve into a controversial area. He has written a book that should be read by all mental health workers, a volume that contains both wisdom and compassion.”
Peter L. Giovacchini, M.D.
Psychoanalytic Books: A Quarterly Journal of Reviews

“Dr. Michael Sussman’s A Curious Calling is a must-read for any clinician with an unconscious. Sussman writes compellingly of the therapist as a ‘wounded healer,’ motivated by a whole host of powerful unconscious forces. His book is a disturbing but sympathetic exploration of a controversial issue—the therapist’s ‘dark place,’ those unconscious motivations that can be unconscionably destructive if not acknowledged or profoundly constructive if recognized and known. It is an awesome responsibility to be in the position of helping another come to know himself and his unconscious; if the therapist is to be able effectively to assume responsibility, he must truly know himself as well.”
Martha Stark, M.D.

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