This is a happy dog story!
Malian (which is pronounced “Mary-Ann” in Wabanaki language) is visiting her grandparents on their Wabanaki reservation when shelter-in-place orders go into effect for the COVID-19 pandemic. What was supposed to be a brief visit becomes a long stay, with Malian trying to keep up with Zoom middle school on the rez’s spotty wi-fi and trying to keep her elderly family members safe. Malian isn’t the only unexpected visitor to the rez; a beautiful, mysterious dog shows up and makes himself at home. The downtime becomes an opportunity for Malian to connect more to her indigenous roots through her grandparents storytelling and life on the rez.
This is a very sweet, quick read. Bruchac wrote it by dictating on his iPhone while walking his dog during the pandemic, which is fitting since oral storytelling is a big theme of the book. Students who experienced the early pandemic lockdowns will identify with Malian’s story, and privileged readers will gain a greater understanding of what the time at home looked like for their indigenous neighbors.
This is also an extremely timely piece in the wake of the possible repeal of ICWA. Malian’s mother was a victim of forced adoptions, and Malian not only learns this history, but witnesses first-hand how the government still attempts to keep a leash on the upbringing of indigenous children. It is a great conversation starter if you are looking to introduce this history and it’s current impact to your kids.