An 11-year-old girl does her best to protect her mom’s new tenants as they run an animal-rescue center out of the basement.
Most of the animals Duke and Gabriella rescue are reptiles, including snakes. Snakes terrify Amelia’s mom, so Amelia does her best to keep Duke and Gabriella’s project under wraps. When a snake gets loose in Amelia’s house, however, the secret gets out, and her mom decides to evict the couple. But Amelia has become increasingly involved with the rescue operation, especially when her favorite tortoise, Winston, develops a life-threatening illness. Winston needs expensive medicine, but Duke and Gabriella are struggling financially. Amelia decides to try various fundraising schemes but keeps coming up short. As more animals need rescuing and Winston’s condition deteriorates, Amelia also hides a letter about a possible new home for Duke and Gabriella because she doesn’t want them to leave. Citra keeps the focus light, even with the illness of the turtle, and delivers some life lessons with grace. The story neatly focuses on the passions not only of Amelia, but also of Duke and Gabriella, in whom Amelia finds an extended family after her parents’ divorce. It all comes together in a lovely little episode that animal-loving young readers should especially find resonant.
Sweet and lively. (Fiction. 8-11)