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Rez Dogs

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Renowned author Joseph Bruchac tells a powerful story of a girl who learns more about her Penacook heritage while sheltering in place with her grandparents during the coronavirus pandemic.

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 safe: She'protect' her grandparents, and they'protect'her. She doesn’t go out 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.
Told in verse inspired by oral storytelling, this novel about the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the ways in which Indigenous nations and communities cared for one another through plagues of the past, and how they keep caring for one another today.

**Four starred reviews!**
Boston Globe-Horn Book Fiction & Poetry Honor
NPR Books We Love
Kirkus Reviews Best Books
School Library Journal Best Books
Chicago Public Library Best Fiction for Younger Readers
Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Finalist
Nerdy Book Club Award—Best Poetry and Novels in Verse

ISBN-13: 9780593326213

Media Type: Hardcover

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group

Publication Date: 06-08-2021

Pages: 192

Product Dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.70(d)

Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

Joseph Bruchac is a highly acclaimed children’s book author, poet, novelist, and storyteller, as well as a scholar of Native American culture. He is the coauthor of the bestselling Keepers of the Earth series with Michael Caduto. Bruchac's poems, articles, and stories have appeared in hundreds of publications from Akwesasne Notes and American Poetry Review to National Geographic and Parabola. He has authored many books for adults and children including Code Talker: A Novel about the Navajo Marines of World War Two, Skeleton Man, and The Heart of a Chief.

Read an Excerpt

chapter one


When Malian woke up

and looked out her window,

the dog was there.

Just as she had

dreamed it would be.

It was lying on the driveway

halfway between

their small house and the road.

It wasn’t sleeping,

its head was up,

its ears erect,

its paws in front of it

as if on guard.

As Malian watched,

the dog turned its head

to look right at her,

as if it knew her,

as if it had known her

for a long, long time.

“Malsum,” she said.

“Kwai, kwai, nidoba.”

Hello, hello, my friend.

The big dog nodded

and then turned back

to continue watching the road.

Malsum. That was

the old name for a wolf.

It was a good one for that dog.

It was as big as a wolf.

It looked like the videos

of wolves she’d watched

on her phone.

The only things different

about it were the white spots

over each of its eyes.

“Four-eyed dog,”

a soft voice said

from back over her shoulder.

It was Grandma Frances.

Malian had not

heard her come up behind.

She was used to that.

Both her grandparents

could walk so softly

that she never knew

they were there

until they spoke.

Grandma Frances

would tease her about it.

“Be careful, granddaughter,

you don’t want

to let no Indian

sneak up on you.”

Grandma Frances

put her hand

on Malian’s shoulder.

“Looks to me

like he thinks

he belongs here,” she said.

Then she chuckled.

“Or maybe like

he thinks he

owns this place.”

“Would that be okay?”

Malian said.

Grandma Frances

chuckled again.

“It seems to me

it’s not up to us.

When a dog like

that just appears

and chooses you,

it’s not your decision.”

“Can I go outside and see

what he does?” Malian said.

“Let’s ask your grampa.

Roy, get in here.”

But Grampa Roy

was already there.

“I’ve been listening

to every word.

Seems to me

if you step outside

and then move real slow

whilst you watch what he does

you’ll be okay.

But just in case,

I’ll be right behind you.”

Malian shook her head.

“Remember what they said?

You and Grandma

should not go outside.

It’s too dangerous—

you might get that virus.

That’s why I can’t

go home to Mom and Dad.”

“And we’re goldarn lucky

you’re here with us,”

Grampa Roy said.

“That old saying about

how we don’t know

what we’d do without you

sure makes sense these days.

So I’ll stay inside—

but you stay in, too.

Just open the door

and we’ll see what he does.”

Malian cracked open the door.

The dog stood up

and turned her way.

He opened his mouth,

let his tongue hang out

in what she knew

had to be a smile.

She held out her wrist.

“Malsum!” she called,

her voice soft but sure.

The big dog walked over

and sniffed her hand.

“Malsum,” she said again,

dropping down to one knee

as she placed her hand

on his broad head.

The dog looked at her,

straight into her eyes.

As he held her gaze

he seemed to Malian

that she could see

intelligence and

even a hint of humor

and a kind of certainty.

Malsum nodded his head

as if to say, Yes

that can be my name.

I am here for you.

Then he licked her fingers

before turning around

and going back,

heavy muscles rippling

beneath his skin,

to drop himself down

where he had been.

“Guess he is

guarding us, for sure,”

Grampa Roy said.

“Looks like you got

a new friend.”