Mountain DogFall 2013 Fiction
Tony's mother is cruel, and his life is completely chaotic. Until she is sent to prison, she keeps Tony embroiled in all the aspects of her dog fighting ring in Los Angeles . In spite of their connection to his trials, Tony maintains compassion for dogs. His social worker finds a great-uncle with whom he can live. Tio Leonilo lives as a forest ranger in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Tio Leonilo has a brown lab named Gabe who is a trained wilderness search-and-rescue dog. Gabe loves Tony instantly, and he helps tell their story in alternate chapters.
Suddenly, life is completely altered for Tony, from never having had anyone cook anything for him to having hot breakfasts prepared for him. The other students at the small mountain school, which he must attend, are friendly and not the bullies he expects. It is the kindly uncle and the sweet dog that gradually and believably transform Tony's existence. He remains haunted by the fear of his mother being released and reclaiming him. She remains frighteningly erratic when his great-uncle takes Tony to visit her in prison.
The format and content of this book make it a child-appealing winner. The author's prose poems, with lots of white space, are beautifully written and highly accessible. Tony is outwardly quiet, but his rich and complicated thought processes are told in first-person. The adorable dog's thought processes are not complicated. This understanding, obviously dog-loving author makes Gabe and his human companions seem absolutely real.