“Mountain Dog” Margarita Engle

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published August 13, 2013. Henry Holt and Company. 212 pp. Includes “A Note to Readers” by the author.

MountainDogEleven-year-old Tony has had a rough life with his abusive mother and her fighting pit bulls. When she is arrested, he winds up in foster care with great-uncle Leo, who he’d never met. Leo lives high on the Sierra Nevada mountains in a log cabin with his dog Gabe and, from the beginning, is kind and understanding of the rough life Tony has led.

For his part, Tony is confused by feelings of anger and helplessness from his former life, and by the unsettled thoughts he gets from visiting his mother in prison. He is sure Leo will give him up or that he’ll have to return to his mother and leave the peace he has finally begun to find with Gabe. He is also confused because Leo knows Spanish and came from the same Island as his mother, yet he doesn’t know anything about that side of his life. His curiosity about who he is, and what his future holds, knows no bounds.

Gabe, a Search and Rescue dog (SAR) trained by Leo to look for lost hikers in the woods, also takes turns with Tony in alternating chapters to tell the story of his love for Leo, Tony and all things round. Gabe’s patience and love gradually help Tony feel a sense of oneness and ownership with his surroundings, himself, and his new family.

Newbery Honor Winner and Pura Belpre Award winning author Margarita Engle, once again, pens a beautifully crafted story in poetic style. The love and commitment shown by Gabe and Tony to each other will endear their story to all readers aged 9-12, who will also learn much about the important work of Search and Rescue teams, inspired by the work done by Engle’s husband and his SAR team.


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