Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2021. 9780593326213
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or starred review) 5
Genre: Realistic fiction; novel in verse
What did you like about the book? Malian is a Penacook girl staying with her grandparents on the Wabanaki reservation when the coronavirus pandemic breaks out. She usually lives in Boston with her parents, but now she must quarantine with her grandparents. Then one of the rez dogs shows up at her door. He refuses to come inside, but adopts Malian and her grandparents as his family. They name him Malsum, which means “wolf.” Malian and her grandparents care for each other, feeding each other, keeping potential carriers of the virus at bay, and telling stories that help them better understand the deadly virus in the context of history. Malian misses her parents, but keeps in touch via FaceTime and phone calls. She struggles to keep up with online schooling despite the poor internet connection on the reservation. She also learns more about her family’s history–from the diseases brought by colonizers to forced sterilization of Indian women, to the Indian boarding schools her own grandparents were forced to attend. Through it all, Malsum is by her side, protecting her and walking by her side. Learning her family’s truth gives Malian the courage to share that story with her teacher and in turn with her classmates in a presentation that reveals that she too is a rez dog. This slim novel in verse packs a very powerful punch and is a beautiful reminder of the lessons we can learn when we take the time to listen to each other’s stories.
Anything you did not like about the book? No
To whom would you recommend this book? All students, especially those who like novels in verse. I think this would make an excellent read aloud or small group read.
Who should buy this book? All elementary and middle school libraries plus public libraries! It’s perfect for grades 4+.
Where would you shelve it? Novel in verse
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes!
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Laura Gardner, Dartmouth Middle School, Dartmouth
Date of review: August 13, 2021