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When the COVID-19 pandemic starts, Malian, a young Wabanaki girl, is quarantined with her grandparents on the reservation, where she befriends a local dog and learns about her ancestors and how they always survive together. Simultaneous eBook. - (Baker & Taylor)

"Twelve-year-old Malian lives with her grandparents on a Wabanaki reservation during the COVID-19 pandemic"-- - (Baker & Taylor)

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 protects 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 - (Penguin Putnam)

Author Biography

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. - (Penguin Putnam)

First Chapter or 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.”

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Trade Reviews

Booklist Reviews

Malian, a Wabanaki girl, can't go home to her parents in Boston because she must shelter in place with her grandparents on the rez, thanks to being caught there by the COVID-­19 pandemic during a weekend visit. She loves her grandparents but is often bored. That changes one morning when she wakes up and sees the rez dog outside, just as she had dreamed he would be. When it becomes obvious that he has adopted the family and become its self-appointed protector, Malian names him Malsum, the old name for a wolf. Noted Abenaki author Bruchac limns Malian's growing friendship with the dog in this accomplished novel in verse. Episodic in structure, it captures the family's daily lives and shares the grandparents' traditional stories, ensuring that a connection remains between them and the natural world. Readers also learn about injustices visited on Native peoples and hear Malian's white teacher's declaration that "we need to learn more of each other's stories." With this gentle book, Bruchac offers children another story to expand their worlds and hearts. Grades 3-6. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

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