Dog Tracks by Ruby Slipperjack

Posted by on Jul 1, 2014 in Book Reviews, Ontario | 0 comments

Dog TracksSummary: After Abby’s grandfather has an episode and ends up in the hospital, her grandparents can’t take care of her anymore and she must return to live with her mother, step-father and siblings on Bear Creek reserve. The move completely changes her life as she learns new cultural beliefs and practices, connecting Abby to her Native American side in a way she has never experienced before. As Abby becomes part of the community, she discovers new talents and comes of age in a place where she is loved by many, giving her a firm foundation to go forward in her life and pursue her dreams.

Number of Pages: 225

Age Range: 13-14

Review: Dog Tracks by Ruby Slipperjack is not a book that should be read in a day. Instead, it should be savoured, because Slipperjack’s writing captures what amounts to a moment of Abby’s life from just before she turns thirteen to shortly after she turns fifteen. I was reminded a bit of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith, except instead Abby moves from outside of Thunder Bay to Bear Creek reserve, and Slipperjack paints a vivid picture of her getting to know her roots in this coming of age story.

Though I wish I had been able to read it when I wasn’t under time pressure, I enjoyed the world Slipperjack created as I learned as much as Abby did about hunting and skinning animals, and the pragmatic beliefs and practices of Native Americans. I loved the culture of story-telling in the community and Slipperjack’s characters as they all have their own quirks.

The story itself is about the reserve setting up an 1800s Anishinawbe retreat for tourists through assembling a dog team and creating authentic costumes and setting for people to get into the experience, but it is a backdrop against which Abby becomes the White-Throated Sparrow, and learns to embrace her culture through becoming a member of her mother’s community. I think it would be a great read-aloud book, as it is a gently-paced story with wonderful moments of humour and action.

Memorable Quotes:

“When we finally left the house, we headed back home, all of us rather quiet and thoughtful. I thought about how far I’d travelled to becoming a member of this community. But then, looking into my future, I knew that I’d be flipped out of it again when I left to complete high school in the city, just like that stone in the river that Chief Paulie had told me about when I first came to Bear Creek.” – Abby from Dog Tracks by Ruby Slipperjack, page 225

Dog Tracks by Ruby Slipperjack is published by Fifth House, (2008)

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