Like a Duck
Like a Duck
“You can’t cook him,” I said, tears beginning to pool in my eyes. “He is … He’s my best friend.” My voice crumbled over this last part and I dropped my chin onto his little head. There was a shuffling of feet and a swirl of air and the next thing I knew, Madz and JD were standing on either side of me.
An apron-clad army of three. Plus a duck.
Sarah Lasagna, a name often accompanied by pasta jokes, her mom, Mombo, and Webster, her best friend, live in a small seaside town. Webster is a duck. When Sarah’s father left them 10 years ago, Sarah stopped talking. The doctor suggested a pet might be therapeutic, and Mombo brought home a duck. It worked, and Webster, designated as an emotional support animal, went everywhere with Sarah. Turning 12 was a big event for Sarah, especially as she was receiving a ‘new-used’ cell phone.
It was never explained to Sarah why her father left. For the past two years, she has been writing him letters and putting them in the mailbox unaddressed. Now, with a phone, she can download an app and trace her father. But her birthday excitement is deflated when Mombo can’t get off work for their annual “You and Me” celebration week. Instead, Sarah has been enrolled in a French cooking class. And so begins the riveting story, Like a Duck, by award-winning author Deborah Kerbel.
Like a Duck navigates through some serious topics, including an absent father, anxiety, loss, family dynamics and friendship. Sarah’s narrative is engaging, and the dialogue, often rich in humour, adds lightness and laughter. Through the unusual escapades connected to the French cooking camp, the theme of friendship with Sarah and the other two participants, Madz and Josh, is woven throughout the story. The inclusion of Webster, the duck, cleverly draws the reader into examining friendship and loss in a comfortable way.
Growing up, friends, family dynamics, loss and anxiety are key topics for young adult novels. The unexpected inclusion of a duck as a pivoting point to address these issues and the emotions in the story adds great appeal to the novel. Like a Duck not only is a fun read but also a discussion starter on many topics for middle grade readers.
Janice Foster is a retired teacher and teacher librarian in Winnipeg, Manitoba.