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