Texas Bluebonnet Award 2015-2016

Official TBA Master List Resources Compiled by the TBA Program Committee

Mountain Dog


Mountain Dog
by Margarita Engle

MountainDog_margarita engle 2008_credit Marshall W Johnson

Scroll down to find Related Activities & Resources, Book Talk Teasers, Read Alikes, and Book Reviews.

Readers Theater Script

Book Trailer

Author Interview


Author and Illustrator Info:
Margarita Engle home page:

Margarita Engle’s Facebook page:

Interview with Margarita Engle:

Nine interviews with Margarita Engle:

Margarita Engle guest blogger:

Literacy link discussion guide:

Olga and Aleksey Ivanov basic information:

Myths and facts about pit bulls:

Job duties and responsibilities of a park ranger:

PBS Dogs’ sense of smell:

Dog senses:

Cuban raft exhibit:

Boy tells of escape on raft:

Many pictures of Cuban rafts in the ocean:

American Rescue Dog Association (has excellent photos):

Search and rescue wilderness photos:

Stargazing basics:

The 50 best sights in astronomy:

Pacific Crest Trail map:

Pacific Crest Trail Association (includes tips on hiking, supplies, etc.):

Have your class find a local place they could donate items to for trail angels to take to drop off points.

How to become a search and rescue volunteer:

Search and Rescue courses:

Pacific Northwest Volunteer search and rescue guidelines:

Texas tracks- Do you know them?https://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_lf_k0700_0001.pdf

Texas animal tracks matching:

Texas Wildlife identification guide:

Animal tracks guide:

Common animal tracks:

Foraging Texas (on left click on plant for nutrition info. and picture):

Edible wildflowers (click on photo on right for detailed info):

Texas wildflower index:

Slideshow of some Texas wildflowers:

Wildflowers of Texas (excellent pictures):

Tony writes a blog called Dog Nose Notes.  Write your own blog or a class blog from the point of view of a dog or a different animal.

Black bear facts:

25 questions kids ask about bears and answers:

Food for bears questions:

Black bear questions true/false:

Treasure hunt orienteering game:

PowerPoint on compass reading and orienteering (excellent):
Introduction to Orienteering (click to launch ppt)

Map reading compass and orienteering basics:

Using a map and compass video (2:08)

Orienteering a string course:

Orienteering a white course:

Orienteering lingo:

Go on a nature walk and identify the trees, plants, flowers and tracks.

Make a trail with animal tracks.  Have kids guess which animals the tracks belong to.  Have them follow the trail to the picture of the animal to see if they are correct.

In teams give kids a map and compass and teach them to find their bearings and then make a mini orienteering course for them to practice their map/compass reading skills.

Invite a search and rescue volunteer to speak to the students.  Have a search a rescue dog come and find a student.

Discussion Questions:

Tony dreads the thought of having new friends, no friends, no hope. How hard is it to make new friends? If you were in a new school what would you do to make friends? Has there ever been a time when you had no friends?  What was it like?  How did you feel?  What did you do? What is hope and why is hope important?

Tony thinks, Even the angriest pit bulls are friendlier than my future’. Have you ever felt like Tony? Explain.

Tony’s mom breaks the law but it is Tony who is suffering for her crimes.  Name some ways innocent people today suffer when others break the law.

Tony makes fun of his great uncles’ name.  He hasn’t met him yet. Is Tony being fair?  Why is he being mean?

Gabe sniffs the boy. Gabe thinks ‘all we need is in the air’.  Sniff the air around you.  What do you smell? If you were in the country what kind of things do you think you would be able to smell?

Gabe sizes Tony up on the trip from the courthouse.  He thinks, ‘we will always be friends. Always.’ Have you ever sized someone up immediately?  Can you know upon meeting someone their true character? Explain.

Tony goes to a three room school house. Would you like to go to a school where three grades were in one room?  What are the advantages and disadvantages? Do you think you would feel differently if you were the youngest or the oldest?

Tony’s mom and great uncle both come to America on a raft?  How bad would conditions have to be for you to abandon your family and country and set out on a raft hoping to find a new life?  How would you feel?  Could you do it?  What characteristics would a person have to have to leave everything behind for a rickety raft? Compare this to the kids today who are fleeing their homes in Central and South America to come to The United States by way of the Texas/Mexico border.

Tony is taken to a cowboy church where dogs and horses are welcome.  Would you like to go to an outdoor church with animals in attendance?  Explain.

Gabe learns new words Tony says by smelling tasting and hearing them.  Give an example of how we learn by using all of our senses.  Be specific.

Tony hasn’t had to fight at his new school.  He only battle is against his past.  What does he mean by this?

All thru-hikers have trail names that sound adventurous. Examples: Wolf Man, Sky Walker, etc.  If you were a thru-hiker what would your trail name be and why?

Tony’s mom refuses to see him at the prison. She wants to see a movie instead. Do you think this is the real reason she won’t come out? How would you feel if this happened to you?  Would you think it was your fault?  Would you feel relieved? Angry? Hurt? Explain.

Tony sees a bear in the road.  He says the bear passes as swiftly as one of mom’s worst moods.What does this tell you about Tony’s mom?

Tony thinks words might be his strength.  He could be a superhero with secret syllable powers.  How would this work?  What are secret syllable powers?  Do you have or want this power?

Tony participates in UNO-unexpected night out.  If you spent the night out alone in the woods would you be able to make a shelter and get food?  Would you be scared even though you knew someone was nearby?

Tony says anger is like a disease. You can catch it. You can give it.  Do you agree?  How can you keep from getting it?

Tony worries about getting sent away if Uncle Leo and B.B. get married. Is this a legitimate fear?  What advice would you give Tony about dealing with his fear?

After Uncle Leo came to America he had to decide which feelings could be trusted and which ones would poison his mind. Make a list of emotions you can trust and a list of emotions what would are poisonous. Give a reason and or example of how for each one.

Tony tells the social worker to not set up any more appointments for him to see his mom at the prison. Do you think this was the right decision?  How hard do you think this decision was?  Could you have made it?  Should we hang around or be friends with people who are toxic to us?

All throughout the story Gabe helps Tony to heal.  Today dogs are used to help veterans who have suffered PTSD.  How do dogs help?  What is special about dogs that soothes the emotions?

If Gabe and Tony could have a conversation where they both understood the other perfectly what do you think they would say to each other?



Perform the readers’ theater.

Read the front flap.


Moving, Character-Driven, Realistic Fiction, and Rescue dogs:
MacLachlan, Patricia. White fur flying. A sad and silent nine-year-old boy finds his voice when he moves next to a family that rescues dogs. (NoveList)

Moving, Character-Driven, Realistic Fiction, and Children of Prisoners:
Brocker, Susan. Saving Sam. Ben’s mother is dead, his father in jail, and his older brother is heading off the rails at a million kilometers an hour. The social worker is fast running out of options, when the boys? aunt and uncle reluctantly agree to take them in. Just as well: they were the last on her list. Ben’s uncle has bought a guard dog from a man at the pub, but she’s useless – afraid of loud voices and frightened of her own shadow – and he’s decided to have her put down. Ben and the unwanted dog recognize each other for what they are – damaged goods – and find some comfort and companionship together, which slowly grows into love and trust. That love will be needed when Ben’s brother gets into seriously bad trouble, and Ben’s trust in his dog is put to the ultimate test. -GoodReads (NoveList)

Fensham, Elizabeth. Bill rules. Bill and Matty are the best of friends. They are also neighbours which leads to exciting adventures, and, sometimes, more than a little trouble. When Bill learns that his father is coming home from jail, his world is tipped upside-down. Worries start to mount, but the ever-watchful Matty has an idea to keep Bill’s dad on the straight and narrow. However, life doesn’t always go according to plan. -GoodReads (NoveList)

Paratore, Coleen. Sunny Holiday. Spunky fourth-grader Sunny Holiday tries to make the best out of every situation, and even though her father is in prison, she and her mother count their blessings and manage to find joy in every day. (NoveList)

Realistic Fiction and Children of Prisoners:
Bourreau, Clara. On the run. Fourth-grader Anthony has always been told that his father is traveling, so when he finds out that he is in jail awaiting trial Anthony is upset and confused–but when his father escapes and takes Anthony with him life becomes really complicated. (NoveList)

Korman, Gordon. Chasing the Falconers. With their parents facing life in prison, Aidan and Meg Falconer race against time to evade the authorities and an unknown attacker to prove their innocence. (NoveList)

Maldonado, Torrey. Secret Saturdays. Twelve-year-old boys living in a rough part of New York confront questions about what it means to be a friend, a father, and a man. (NoveList)

Tougas, Shelley. The Graham cracker plot. Calamity ensues when almost twelve-year-old Daisy and her sometimes best friend Graham try to break Daisy’s father out of prison. (NoveList)

Non Fiction Rescue Dogs:
Bozzo, Linda. Search and rescue dog heroes. The text opens with a true story of a search and rescue (SAR) dog, and then it explains the history of the SAR K-9 team and the training methods used to transform an ordinary dog into a canine hero–Provided by publisher. (NoveList)

Goldish, Meish. Ground Zero dogs. Discusses the many ways rescue dogs helped at Ground Zero after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. (NoveList)

Hall, Lynn. Barry: the bravest Saint Bernard. Relates the feats of Barry, the Saint Bernard dog, whose name, to this day, bears the best dog honor at the Saint Bernard Monastery of Switzerland. (NoveList)

Miller, Marie-Therese. Search and rescue dogs. Describes the work and training of different kinds of search and rescue dogs, including wilderness dogs, bloodhounds, disaster dogs, and avalanche dogs, and discusses the work of a dog named Jake who helped on the site of the World Trade Center. (NoveList)

Osborne, Mary Pope. Dog heroes: a nonfiction companion to Magic Tree House #46: Dogs in the dead of night. Answers questions about the history and behavior of dogs and provides true stories of dog heroics. (NoveList)

Realistic Fiction and Rescue Dogs:
Coble, Colleen. Rock Harbor Search and Rescue. “When an expensive necklace is stolen from a renowned jewelry artist at Rock Harbor’s fall festival and Emily is accused of the crime, it looks like she’ll never get her puppy and be able to join the Rock Harbor Search and Rescue team. Emily sets out to find the real culprit”–. (NoveList)

Cronin, Doreen. The legend of Diamond Lil: a J. J. Tully mystery. A hard-bitten former search-and-rescue dog faces more problems with the fancy new dog next door and a possum heading for the chicken coop. (NoveList)

Cronin, Doreen. The trouble with chickens: a J. J. Tully mystery. A hard-bitten former search-and-rescue dog helps solve a complicated missing chicken case. (NoveList)

Engle, Margarita. When you wander: a search-and-rescue dog story. A dog that has just graduated from “sniffing school” advises readers what to do if they become lost in the woods, and assures them that his smart nose will lead him to where they are. Includes facts about dogs’ noses. (NoveList)

Klimo, Kate. Barry. Barry der Menschenretter, a Saint Bernard dog, reflects back on his life in the early 1800s at the Hospice of the Great Saint Bernard in the Swiss Alps, where he rescued some forty people from avalanches. Includes facts about the breed and the hospice. (NoveList)

Watson, Sherri. The lost child. After a little girl is missing, a call goes out for a search and rescue dog and it’s up to Fay, a border collie, to find her before a storm hits. (NoveList)

Moving, Realistic Fiction, and Great-Uncles:
Danziger, Paula. United Tates of America. Eleven-year-old aspiring artist Skate experiences many changes when she enters middle school, finds her best friend drifting away from her, and loses her beloved great-uncle. (NoveList)



Mountain Dog. Engle, Margarita (author).  Illustrated by Olga Ivanov.
Aug. 2013. 288p. Holt, hardcover, $16.99 (9780805095166). Grades 3-6. 

REVIEW.  First published August, 2013 (Booklist).

Tony moves to Sierra Nevada with his forest ranger great uncle, following his mother’s arrest for dog fighting. Tony quickly connects with Gabe, Tío Leonilo’s search-and-rescue dog. With the help of Gabe, and through writing a blog and poetry, Tony settles into his new life of search and rescue; Cowboy Church, with its dogs and horses; loud Gracie from school; and trips to visit his mother in prison. He works hard to overcome his fear of math, which had always meant calculating dog bets, so that he can study veterinary science in college. Tony’s transformation is told in free verse that alternates between Tony’s and Gabe’s voices. Clear, strong language captures Tony’s pain, and while the ending is tidy, his relationship with his mom remains complicated and honest. The details about search and rescue, the Pacific Coast trail, and dogs and bears keep the book’s action high and will appeal to wilderness fans. Black-and-white illustrations complete the package. — Suzanne Harold

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:
Engle, Margarita. Mountain Dog. Illustrated by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov. October 2013
ISBN 978-0-8050-9516-6
Paperback: 9781250044242, eBook: 9780805098938.

When Tony’s mother goes to prison for running dog fights, Tony is sent off to the wilds of the Sierra Nevadas to stay with Tio Leonilo, the great-uncle he’s never met. The eleven-year-old soon takes to his easygoing uncle and bonds with his dog, a chocolate Lab named Gabe, who’s Tio’s partner in search and rescue. As Tony settles in to life with Tio, he struggles with his relationship with his volatile imprisoned mother, and his involvement with Search and Rescue echoes his work at self-recovery. Known for her free-verse narrative, Engle here gives poetic voice both to Tony and to enthusiastic dog Gabe, who has his own take on Tony’s experience; the narrations are clearly differentiated, with Tony’s halting and literal while Gabe’s is impressionistic and joyous. There’s a link to the author’s traditional topic of Cuba through Tony’s heritage and Tio’s past (he was a Cuban refugee), but this is definitely a contemporary story of a modern California kid with modern kid troubles. While Tony’s story tilts occasionally toward sentimentality, it’s the dog story that really makes the book; the details of the search and rescue process, training, and psychology are fascinating in their own right, and they’re an evocative contrast to Tony’s previous experience with dogs. Tony’s definitely a kid who deserves better than he’s had, so readers will be relieved to see him finally settled permanently with Tio, a deal cinched with a puppy of his own. Interpersed monochromatic line and watercolor art balances friendliness and naturalistic detail; a guide to hiking safety and an author’s note are appended.

Horn Book:
Engle, Margarita Mountain Dog
212 pp. Holt 2013. ISBN 978-0-8050-9516-6

(4) 4-6 Illustrated by Olga Ivanov. His mother gone to prison, Tony is sent to live with a great-uncle he’s never met, a forest ranger who lives in the Sierra Nevadas with his search-and-rescue dog, Gabe. There’s a good story here, but the verse-novel format (with narration by Tony and Gabe) isn’t quite right, and the illustrations are at tonal odds with the text.
(Spring 2014 Guide)

Reprinted from The Horn Book Guide by permission of The Horn Book, Inc., www.hbook.com

School Library Journal:
ENGLE, Margarita. Mountain Dog. illus. by Olga Ivanov. 224p. Holt. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8050-9516-6.

Gr 4-7–Eleven-year-old Tony has had a tough life and now his mother, an immigrant, is in prison for training fighting pit bulls. Fortunately, his great uncle agrees to take him in. Tío is a forest ranger who, along with his dog Gabe, rescues people lost in the wilderness. Suddenly, Tony is living far from Los Angeles in the Sierra Nevada. Written in free verse, this story is told from the perspectives of Tony and Gabe. The chocolate lab senses the boy’s internal struggles as he deals both with his sadness about his mother and his wonder at this beautiful new place. Wise and kind, Tío begins to train Tony to work with the rescue volunteers and gives his nephew the best gift of all when he welcomes him into his home permanently, helping him gain the confidence he needs to begin planning a positive future. Gabe’s insights into Tony’s struggles and his vividly captured doggy enthusiasm and devotion keep the story upbeat. The bond that develops between the canine and boy makes this book an inspiring read that will be especially believable to dog lovers. Black-and-white drawings appear throughout the story, and these empathetic depictions of the characters, animals, and setting capture the spirit of the text. A thoughtful and sensitive story that touches on immigration, family, and other serious issues.–Carol Schene, formerly at Taunton Public Schools, MA

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