3 out of 4 stars
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Duke the Legend by Mary Ann Zengerle is a non-fiction book, recounting the life of her family’s black labrador, Duke.
When Mary’s husband, Mike, comes home with a black labrador puppy, she tries to make sense of the addition of another dog. The family already has two West Highland Terriers, so she questions adding a puppy to the mix. On closer inspection, Mary couldn’t deny the puppy gazing up at her with his big brown eyes, yearning for acceptance. And so, Mary decided the puppy would remain a part of the family. They chose to name him Duke. Before long, it became clear that Duke was different than the family’s other dogs. To be specific, Duke was different than any dog Mary had met previously.
Duke has what many would call a “larger-than-life” personality. He finds himself “in the doghouse” on more than one occasion. While good-natured, Duke’s curiosity gets the better of him, and he soon becomes the neighborhood trouble-maker. Over the years, Duke finds himself at the center of parties crashed, property damaged, and even in the back of a police car. Despite his trouble-making tendencies, Duke is well-loved by family, friends, and neighbors. When Mike originally came home with Duke, Mary had no idea he would reach legendary status in their Lake Fenton community. Duke the Legend tells the story of how this black labrador puppy grew up to be a legend.
Zengerle captures the exuberant life of Duke in both a humorous and endearing manner. The author’s writing style is casual but descriptive, resulting in an enjoyable reading experience. It’s easy to envision Duke’s adventures through the descriptive narrative, often coupled with creative metaphors. The storyline lends itself to an emotional connection with readers.
Duke’s personality is captured by beautiful hand-drawn illustrations throughout the book, depicting events from the storyline. The author has also included several real-life photographs of Duke in the book. Short quotes from the author’s grandchildren, sharing their love for Duke, grace the pages as well.
What I enjoyed most about this book was reading about how Duke transitioned from being the neighborhood trouble-maker to the neighborhood legend. Duke’s exploits teeter towards being disastrous; everyone in the neighborhood knows his name, where he lives, and who his owners are. Surprisingly, rather than despising this trouble-maker, the community is charmed by Duke. Duke eventually finds himself a guest of honor at backyard barbecues and has exceptional retrieving skills that come in handy at times. The love for Duke is palpable.
On a critical note, this book requires professional editing. I noted multiple errors related to grammar and punctuation and one spelling error. These errors did negatively impact my overall rating of the book. I would also recommend reconsidering the placement of one illustration in particular. This particular illustration depicts a scene that supersedes the occurrence of the event in the storyline. This placement may have been intentional, but readers could interpret it as a bit of a spoiler.
My overall impression of Duke the Legend is that it is a touching, heartwarming story. I felt many emotions while reading this book. I found myself laughing, crying, and reminiscing about similar situations I’ve experienced with my animals. I truly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to others, especially those fond of animals. There is no profanity or graphic material in this book, which will appeal to a broad audience. It is important to note that this book touches on the topic of euthanasia. Beyond that, there a couple of references to drug use and violence made in jest that may bother some readers. For these reasons, parents of younger readers, or those sensitive to these subject areas may wish to use their discretion before reading it.
My overall rating of Duke the Legend is 3 out of 4 stars. If professionally edited, I would award the fourth star.
Duke the Legend
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