Waterfowl, day-camp antics, and family secrets collide during a summer of self-discovery in Like a Duck from prolific Ontario-based children’s author Deborah Kerbel.
Sarah lives in a little seaside town with her mom and best friend – a duck named Webster. He’s more than a pet; he’s a registered therapy animal who helps Sarah deal with her anxiety. But there’s one worry he can’t help with: why did Sarah’s dad abandon her when she was young, and where is he now?
When Sarah’s 12th birthday arrives, she’s excited to get her own phone and finally download an app that may help her find her estranged dad. But her plans are derailed when her mom has to work and enrols Sarah in a French cooking camp with kids who seem even weirder than her and a snotty French teacher who hates Webster and wants him banned from camp.
Each day at camp is stranger than the one before, but it’s not all bad once Sarah gets to know the other campers. One of them might even be able to help her learn more about her dad. Then disaster strikes: Webster goes missing. Will Sarah be able to find her best friend, or will this be yet another lesson in letting go?
Like a Duck is a sunny, charming book with emotional threads that run deep and dark. Anxiety, abandonment, and complex family dynamics are all explored in between goofy escapades and conversational, quippy narration from Sarah. Certain plot elements are a little over the top, and stylistic choices like Sarah’s occasional use of hashtags feel a bit cutesy, but ultimately these playful touches help balance the heavy themes, which are addressed honestly and frankly.
While Like a Duck might induce a little stress when Webster goes missing for sensitive, animal-loving readers, it’s an excellent book to share with an anxious kid, who might see themselves reflected in Sarah. Books that casually deal with mental-health issues can provide kids with entry points to talk about and process their own struggles. Like a Duck just might be that catalyst for someone. And for its other readers, it offers plenty of fun and beach-town summer hijinks.