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.



Here are two books I finished this week.

So far I have read four novels in verse.
This is a nominated Cybils contender I really enjoyed.

Hopkins tells the story from Will’s younger brother’s point of view. When a tragic accident happens to Will, his younger brother is witness to personality changes his parents are unaware of. Whenever family plans are made, it is Trace who always asks, “What About Will?”

Another novel in verse I finished is one by doctor/author Rajani La Rocca. She uses the metaphor of red cells, white cells, and whole blood to tell the story of Reha who feels torn between her private school community on weekdays and her family and relatives on weekends.

Indian students and kids will find someone who “looks like them” as the hero of this novel in verse.

Both of these books were nominated for the Cybils Award in poetry, and were a delight to read. I highly recommend both of them for kids in grades 6-high school.


This Saturday Morning for Kids I introduce a week-long series, “Tween Treasures.” Each day from Saturday, May 16th until Saturday, May 23rd, I will recommend and write a short review of a book that appeals to ages 10-14. Many of these are books I came across in 2019 as a Cybils Award First Round Reader; others are from donations to or purchases for my Little Free Library.


The first Tween Treasures recommendation for Saturday, May 16th is The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane by Julia Nobel. It involves a boarding school secret society where Emmy’s father supposedly disappeared when he was a student at the school and the efforts she and her friends make to solve the mystery.51cGXY5HHlL._SY346_

This was a suspenseful read even for an adult, and when it’s a kid and it’s your father that had gone missing, well, let’s just say there’s a great deal at stake. Emmy’s ingenuity and perseverance even in the face of danger made her one of my favorite protagonists in my Cybils’s Reader assignment.


Just like the Saturday mornings during the 50s and 60s when cartoons were the only thing on TV, this post is aimed at kids.

Here are a few more books I read aimed at 5th-8th graders during my 2019 stint as a Cybil’s first round reader:

Jada Sly Artist and Spy by Sherri Winston presents a ten year old frequently involved in adventure and hilarity. The author/illustrator is best known as the first African American cartoonist, but here she aims her talents directly at 10 year olds.

Laurel Snyder’s My Jasper June , recommended by the author of Wonder, deals with a homeless girl, Jasper, living in Atlanta, who makes a friend at school, an unusual event for her. The friend, Leah, and she construct a “hideaway” in an an abandoned house, something that begins as a lark, but puts them in real danger. A secondary plot of Leah’s guilt over her brother’s death and the result of it, which has Leah’s parents “just going through the motions” is abruptly interrupted by the scary conclusion, a nail biter, for sure.

In the What Happened series by Verity Weaver, a new offering, Math Test Mischief, looks into  a serious accusation of a group of eighth graders, disguised as an April Fool’s prank. It is a true Who dun it, and I am sure the conclusion will surprise you as much as it did me.

Another series, Survivor Diaries, written by Terry Lynn Johnson, offers another great story, Dust Storm (which may be based on an online game), and teaches kids the mantra, “Stay calm. Stay Smart. Survive.” This particular series reminds me of an older-kid’s version of the Treehouse books.

And for older readers, Where the Heart Is by Jo Knowles opens with the statement that Rachel and Micha, the protagonists were engaged at the age of six. They are boyfriend and girlfriend as well as best friends until Rachel begins to have feelings for another girl. This conflict in Rachel’s heart exacerbates the conflict at home for Rachel and her family when she loses her family home, a farm, and has to move to an apartment in the city.

I hope some of these will appeal to your middle grades readers, and that they will enjoy them as much as I did!