Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dog Tracks by Ruby Slipperjack

I've been reading so much lately that I haven't found time to write, but I'll try to remedy that in the next little while. If I don't blog about a book shortly after I read it, then it becomes less and less likely that I'll ever say anything about it. I've had a huge stack of Aboriginal literature to get through in preparation for a presentation on Aboriginal Books for Teens that I'll be giving at the Alberta Library Conference in Jasper at the end of this month. There are so many great books to talk about - and I'll get to them - but I'll start with a disappointment.

I really wanted to like Ruby Slipperjack's Dog Tracks. It is set in contemporary times and contrasts life in a small town to life on a reserve in northern Ontario. Abby is twelve at the start of the story which spans about two years of her life. She has been raised by her grandparents in town, but goes to live on Bear Creek reserve with her mother and stepfather when her grandfather is hospitalized. Abby has a hard time adjusting to her new life at first. Her young halfbrother, Blink, annoys her very much. She gets teased at school. But really, not a lot happens.

Abby's parents are starting up a business venture that will give tourists the opportunity to spend a few days living in the bush in the manner of the Anishnaabe of the 18th century. This plot device allows the author to share a great deal of information about the traditional ways of the Anishnaabe people. That was the best part of the book, for me. I wish I would have been able to care more deeply about Abby, however.

These are the final three lines in the novel: "Suddenly, Blink landed flat on his back in front of me and I nearly tripped over him. He'd insisted on wearing moccasins and he'd stepped on a sheet of ice on the road. Ice on snow-covered moccasins was indeed very slippery." I found the writing style too stilted for my taste, but I hope that young readers won't be as fussy.

The publisher (Fitzhenry & Whiteside) suggests this book for age 12 and up (probably because Abby gets her first period during the course of the story) but it seems more likely to appeal to younger readers, maybe age 10 - 13.

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