Mountain Dog by Margarita Engle (2013)

51Oei844sIL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_A simple but emotion-packed middle grade boy-and-his-dog story.

Recommended grade level: 3-6

Pages: 224 (for ISBN 9780805095166)

Genre(s) and keywords: novel in verse, realistic fiction, animal fiction, reluctant readers, Latino/Latina

Tone/Style: simple

Pace: fast

Topics: animals, dogs, service animals, foster children, incarcerated parents

Themes: human/animal relationships, belonging, creating family

Summary: When Tony’s mother is sent to jail, he is sent to stay with a great uncle he has never met in Sierra Nevada. It is a daunting move—Tony’s new world bears no semblance to his previous one. But slowly, against a remote and remarkable backdrop, the scars from Tony’s troubled past begin to heal.

With his Tió and a search-and-rescue dog named Gabe by his side, he learns how to track wild animals, is welcomed to the Cowboy Church, and makes new friends at the Mountain School. Most importantly though, it is through Gabe that Tony discovers unconditional love for the first time, in Mountain Dog by Margarita Engle. (Source)

Who will like this book?: Animal lovers will appreciate this boy-and-his-dog story with a dash of family drama. This simple novel in verse has illustrations and lots of white space, making it a good choice for reluctant or struggling readers. SPOILER ALERT: ———–the dog does not die. I know this can be a make-or-break question for a lot of kids!

Who won’t like this book?: The book is made up of light contemplation and light adventure. Those seeking either of these in greater quantities may feel something is lacking in this title. The simplicity of the story and writing may turn off more advanced middle school readers.

Other comments: The book includes brief sections told from the point of view of the dog, Gabe.


What to read next: Love That Dog by Sharon Creech is another novel in verse about a boy and a dog. And I never pass up a chance to recommend the new-ish classic Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. Honey by Sarah Weeks is another easy read that includes portions told from a dog’s perspective.


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