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  • My Heart Fills with Happiness
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Junkyard Dog
By author: Monique Polak
Selling Points: "Dogs, animal rights, responsibility"
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Pub Date: Oct/01/2009
Lexile Level: HL570L
Fry Reading Level: 3.1
Pages: 128
Fiction Ages 10-14
Price:  $9.95
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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.

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.
Word of Mouse Book Reviews blog - July 16, 2010
"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."
Washington State YA Review - March 1, 2010
"[The] storyline would attract the reluctant or low reader who likes realistic animal stories."
Booklist - October 15, 2009
"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.'"
CM Magazine - October 2, 2009
"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."
Montreal Review of Books - October 1, 2009
"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."
Resource Links - October 1, 2009
"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."


CCBC Best Books, commended  CA  2011


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Middle-school fiction
for reluctant readers

Key Features:
Contemporary stories
Compelling characters
Ideal for Lit Circles
Ideal for Independent Reading

Teaching Resources:
Teachers' Guides
Accelerated Reader
Lexile levels

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