Thanks, Carla, for loaning me your illustration.

Today’s recommendation comes from books I read that were novels in verse, which were Cybils nominees.

This book was one of many great contenders.

An enlightening, heart-warming story

This is what was written about Rez Dogs.

****Four starred reviews!****
From the U.S.’s foremost Indigenous children’s author comes a middle grade verse novel set during the COVID-19 pandemic, about a Wabanaki girl’s quarantine on her grandparents’ reservation and the local dog that becomes her best friend

Malian loves spending time with her grandparents at their home on a Wabanaki reservation. She’s there for a visit when, suddenly, all travel shuts down. There’s a new virus making people sick, and Malian will have to stay with her grandparents for the duration.

Everyone is worried about the pandemic, but Malian knows how to keep her family and community safe: She protects her grandparents, and they protect her. She doesn’t go outside to play with friends, she helps her grandparents use video chat, and she listens to and learns from their stories. And when Malsum, one of the dogs living on the rez, shows up at their door, Malian’s family knows that he’ll protect them too.

My opinion:As an adult who loves good poetry, I loved the format of this 2021 publication. Each poem continues Malian’s story all the while using verses, rather than paragraphs. For example, when she first sees Malsum, a stray dog outside, she consults her grandfather,

” ‘Can I go outside and

see what he does?’ Malian said…

‘Seems to me

if you step outside

and then move real slow

whilst you watch what he does

you’ll be ok.

But just in case,

I’ll be right behind you…’ “

As Malian stays through the pandemic with her grandparents, she learns from them about her Native American heritage, many parts of which are hard to read and were things I knew nothing about including government programs to sterilize Native American women in order to reduce their numbers, and even the diseases the Native Americans were first exposed to by white settlers which wiped out a large part of their population, freeing up to land to ownership by whites. I always knew our government had given Native Americans a “raw deal” pushing them back, westward, and taking over their lands, finally containing them on reservations, but I had never considered their “side” of things. This children’s book was an eye-opener and gave me an empathy for Native Americans I’d never felt before. In this area, especially, the author did an excellent job. It is a book parents or grandparents and kids need to discuss after reading, and one teachers should read for themselves as well. I highly recommend Joseph Bruchac’s Rez Dogs.

Author: Rae Longest

This year (2019) finds me with 50 plus years of teaching "under my belt." I have taught all levels from pre-K "(library lady" or "book lady"--volunteer) to juniors, seniors, and graduate students enrolled in my Advanced Writing class at the university where I have just completed 30 years. My first paying teaching job was junior high, and I spent 13 years with ages 12-13, the "difficult years." I had some of the "funnest" experiences with this age group. When I was no longer the "young, fun teacher," I taught in an elementary school setting before sixth graders went on to junior high, teaching language arts blocs, an assignment that was a "dream-fit" for me. After completing graduate school in my 40s, I went on to community college, then university teaching. Just as teaching is "in my blood," so is a passion for reading, writing, libraries, and everything bookish. This blog will be open to anyone who loves books, promotes literacy and wants to "come out and play."


  1. Excellent review Rae. This sounds like a great book for me as I am trying to read more about Indigenous Americans. I have only read a few books in verse, but I did like them. Interestingly, they were all middle grade books.

    Liked by 2 people

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