Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 9 to 12
- Grade: 4 to 7
- Reading age: 9 to 12
Justin is fascinated with the aged guard dog at the corner store. He names it Smokey and sneaks the dog treats. Smokey belongs to a company that supplies working dogs to local businesses. Justin is thrilled to get a job working for Smokey's company, until he learns about the mistreatment of the animals. When Justin can't shake his suspicion that someone in the company is involved in a rash of thefts, he tries to quit. But Justin knows too much, and his boss won't let him go.
About the author
MONIQUE POLAK is the author of 26 novels for young readers, as well as two non-fiction titles and a board book. Her books Hate Mail, Room for One More, and the historical novel What World is Left, which was inspired by her mother’s experience during the Holocaust, were all winners of the Quebec Writers’ Federation Prize for Children’s and YA Literature.
Her books have also been nominated for the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People and the Arthur Ellis Award, and several have been selected as Best Books for Children and Teens by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.
She is also a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Macleans, and Postmedia newspapers across the country, and is a columnist on ICI Radio-Canada’s Plus on est de fous, plus on lit! Monique lives in Montreal, Quebec, where she teaches English and Humanities at Marianopolis College.
- Commended, CCBC Best Books
Excerpt: Junkyard Dog (by (author) Monique Polak)
One of the private-school boys grabs hold of his buddy's arm. "Let's get outta here," he says. "See the fangs on that monster? And the way his ears are sticking up?" I don't like him calling Smokey a monster. If Smokey's baring his fangs, it's because he's on the alert. I head for the cash. I feel like Smokey needs me. Like I understand him in a way no one else does.
"Not a taxing read and students will find the end of the novel comes quite quickly. This novel will be good for students who are interested in reading about topics that are serious however need a book that is a more accessible reading level."
"The story is an interesting one, with enough action and engaging characters to easily hook reluctant readers… Can provide some excellent food for thought regarding ethical questions of treatment of animals and whether an individual's need can excuse participation in unethical activities."
"Orca Currents continues its line of hard-hitting novels for reluctant readers with this brutal yet rewarding moral quagmire…Polak writes with a nervy confidence, and her specificity…lends an authenticity that lives beyond the book's relatively few pages. A powerful story for anyone who has ever looked into the eyes of a dog and accepted the offer: 'Be good to us, and we'll be good to you.'"
"[The] storyline would attract the reluctant or low reader who likes realistic animal stories."
Washington State YA Review
"As ever, Polak's narrative style is succinct and engaging. Such abstract concepts as ethics and empathy are given concrete forms through a story that will particularly appeal to reluctant readers."
Montreal Review of Books
"This is a great read for the 9 to 12 year-old animal lover in your life or the teen who is feeling like he/she does not fit in...This juvenile novel was an engaging read and well-written from Justin’s perspective. I really did see his world through his eyes and level of understanding."
Word of Mouse Book Reviews blog