Rez Dogs

Dial. Jun. 2021. 192p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780593326213.
Gr 3-8–Malian’s weekend trip to visit her grandparents, who live on a reservation, lasted much longer than anticipated. While her parents were sheltering in place in Boston, Malian, an eighth grade Penacook girl, was trying to keep herself and her grandparents safe from COVID-19. In this verse novel, Bruchac takes a look at life in lockdown through the eyes of Malian, who copes with boredom, isolation, and the need to find her place. She befriends a dog, whom she names Malsum, meaning wolf. Like other dogs on the reservation, Malsum, unlike city dogs, is free to roam. Though it isn’t always easy to make responsible choices like not seeing friends and trying to catch up on school assignments despite spotty connectivity, Malian finds that Malsum’s friendship helps even if he can’t solve everything. Many readers will connect with Malian’s experience. In addition, the text provides a dose of history, including an introduction to residential schools, relocation, forced sterilization, and more contemporary issues such as racial justice and the disproportionate way that COVID-19 spread in marginalized communities.
VERDICT A contemporary novel in verse that deftly handles weighty issues and provides readers a story they can connect with during a pandemic, with a dose of hope for the future.

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