Duke's Den by Becky Citra

Not only is Becky Citra one of my favourite BC children's book authors, she's probably one of my favourite kid lit authors anywhere. She's a former primary school teacher with considerable knowledge of what kids want to read. It shows in every book she's written. Her beginning chapter book series, Jeremy and the Enchanted Theatre, if you can still find it, is perfect for young readers just starting to read novels.

And then there is her middle grade fiction. I can't begin to count how many middle grade students I have bonded with over one or more of her books. Grade four readers who became hooked her stories, are still reading her work when they are in grade seven.

In Duke's Den, she does it all again.

Following her parent's separation, Amelia and her mother, Dianne, moved into the east side bungalow that they inherited from one of Dianne's aunts. They fix up the basement into a suite and rent it out, sight unseen, to Gabrielle and Duke. Amelia soon discovers that this young couple operate an animal rescue service out of their basement. When Dianne discovers it, she gives them their notice to move out.

Amelia comes up with a plan to convince her mother to change her mind. I leave it for you to read and find out if she is successful.

What I liked about this novel:

The book is set in my neck of the woods here in East Vancouver. Sadly these older bungalows are being torn down to build huge homes, but they still exist. There is something profound about reading a novel set in your own world, where you recognize streets and schools and neighbourhoods and can imagine the characters walking down your block.

I loved the diverse group of characters and their relationships with each other. Amelia's mother embodies the very best in all the single moms I've met and worked with over the years. Amelia's two friends, Liam and Roshni, represent the cultural diversity that is the community I live in. The culturally mixed community with its quirky characters is completely authentic. I love how Amelia, through cutting out coupons and sharing them with these neighbours, is able to consolidate this group into a supportive community. That they all come together in defence of the animal rescue service, is just icing on the cake.

I appreciated the authenticity in Amelia's relationship with her father, his new wife, and their children. Her initial resentment and anger feel reasonable as does the beginning of their mending of their relationship.

Thank you Becky for making my reading life so splendid!


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