Informational Resources:

Author Information:

Author biography on Penguin Random House website:

Activities & Resources:


Learn about robots:

History of robotics:

Brief overview of robots past and present:

21st century society depends on robots to do a variety of jobs that are humanly impossible.  Discover 10 things society couldn’t do without robots:

Make robotics a family project. Share the poster at the top of this webpage with the adult in your home for tips on how to get started on robot building fun:

Science fiction:

Check out these facts about the genre called science fiction. Which of the different styles of science fiction writing detailed in the article describe Watchdog?:

Autism spectrum disorder:

Throughout the novel, Vick discusses the fact that Tara is on the autism spectrum. After reading this article, do you see any of these behaviors in Tara’s character?


The Windy City is the setting for the book and the location for Vick and Tara’s day of fun (Chapter 12). Look at some of the places they visited, including the site of the robot battle.

Plan a trip to the Chicago Art Institute with Journeymaker. Be sure to include a stop to see American Gothic by Grant Wood:

Find out details about Wrigley Field, the second oldest field in major league baseball and the home of the Chicago Cubs::

Get a glimpse of the view from the ferris wheel that Vick and Tara rode at Navy Pier:

Buckingham Fountain was the scene of the battle between Daisy and Ms. Alba’s pack of watchdogs. Look at the photos and imagine climbing to the slippery top like Daisy did:

MakerSpace Activities:

Follow Tara’s example and create a robot. Try one of these beginning DIY robotics projects for kids:

Create a Watchdog game based on the novel’s characters, setting, and plot. Start with a board game with a board, moving markers, questions, cards, and directions. Take the activity up a notch by using Scratch or MakeyMakey to enhance the effects of the game.

With a writing team, produce a news program, based on the events in Watchdog. Include scripts for a robot report, character interviews, commercials, a sports feature, and weather predictions.  Then record the news production, using a green screen if possible. Post on the class or library website to encourage readers to check out the book.

The author created vivid descriptions of the various locations in the book. Be a part of a creative team that selects significant scenes and designs a Watchdog mural. Decide on the artists for each panel and then plan the design. Find a place to display the final product as a prompt to read the book.

They may not move or have electronic circuits, but cardboard box robots are lots of fun to make.  Create a life-size model and become a robot!

Discussion Questions:

What does the cover tell you about the level of action in the book?  What would be your strategy if you were one of the characters running down the dump hill?

Does the first sentence of the novel, “Vick never got used to the smell,” provide a good opening for this novel? Explain your answer.

What is life like in this futuristic Chicago? How is the dump a symbol for society?

Did the author share a specific event that caused the decline of life in southern Chicago? What do you think started the problems that resulted in the dump, Ms. Alba’s control, the gangs roaming the street and the extreme separation of rich and poor?

Science fiction is a genre where technology plays an important role in a society that is  usually set in the future. Share some examples of how technology contributes to this society. How does it also  damage society?

Why do Vick and Tara repeat the phrases “royal blue carpet and shell tile” and “chicken quesadillas with American cheese and bacon crumbles” throughout the book?

Vick and Tara are twins, but they are also very different people. Make a chart that shows how Vick and Tara share similar characteristics.  In another section of the chart, list how this brother and sister are also opposites.

List three adjectives that describe Ms. Alba. For each adjective, write an example from the book that supports how each of these words describe this character.

From the clues that Vick shares about his mother, how would you describe this absent but still loved character?

The author writes, “Vick preferred it when they [Vick and Tara] were on their own. Once upon a time he’d trusted adults to watch out for him. Not anymore” (pp. 18-19). Give examples from the book to support Vick’s negative view of adults.

What roles do watchdogs play in this futuristic world? If your family had designed and built a watchdog, what responsibilities would you program it to perform?

The chip that Tara found and inserted in Daisy enables her new robot to listen, respond, problem solve, and communicate on a human level. Think about the statement, “Our world would be a better place if all robots could act like humans.” Do you agree or disagree? Explain your position.

If you were going to create a watchdog, what animal form would you choose for the body? Explain your decision.

Describe the conditions that the children working for Ms. Alba had to endure. Why didn’t the law protect the children from harm?

The homeless children in Watchdog are called Brumbies. What do you think is a possible origin of that name?

In talking about Rando and Torch, two people Vick considers to be unlikeable bullies, East says, “When you strip away all of the immature antics, they’re good guys.” Find examples in the story that support East’s opinions of these two street kids.

Re-read the scene where Ms. Alba’s watchdogs attack Daisy and the children in downtown Chicago (pp. 107-116).  What emotions do the author’s words create for the reader?

In the final conflict between Ms. Alba’s watchdogs and Daisy’s little army, what role did humans play in the outcome?

After the meeting with the patent lawyers at the end of the book, Vick says to East, Rando, and Torch, “You’re not friends. You’re family.”  Share some examples from the book that support Vick’s statement.

Who is the hero of this story? Explain your answer.

Book Talk Teasers:

Ask the group to predict what their town or city will be like in 2100. After everyone has a chance to share, hold up the book and say that this is a book about Chicago in the not-too-distant future where life is not pretty and robots rule. Encourage readers to check out this exciting science fiction story.

Play some atmospheric music in the background while a group presents the Watchdog readers theater. At the conclusion of the presentation, ask for volunteers to share what they think will happen to Vick and Tara.

Read Alikes:

Band of Survivors — science fiction

Brallier, Max. The last kids on Earth. After a monster apocalypse hits town, average thirteen-year-old Jack Sullivan builds a team of friends to help slay the eerily intelligent monster known as Blarg. (NoveList Plus)

Hale, Nathan. One trick pony: a graphic novel. In a future where alien beings consume technology as a few humans try to preserve it, Strata, her brother, and a friend are separated from their caravan and, with a wonderful robotic horse, must fight their way back.  (NoveList Plus)

Kraatz, Jeramey. The Moon platoon. In the year 2085, an elite group of kids, including twelve-year-old Benny, is selected for a life-changing trip to the Moon and end up as Earth’s only defense against an alien invasion. (NoveList Plus)

Homeless siblings — realistic fiction

Jacobson, Jennifer. Paper things. Leaving with her brother when he decides he can no longer stay with their guardian, Ari endures a life of homelessness that challenges her schoolwork, friendships, and the promise made to her mother that she and her brother would stay together. (NoveList Plus)

McClure, Wendy. Wanderville. To escape rumored terrors in Kansas, New Yorkers Jack and Frances, eleven, and Frances’s brother Harold, seven, jump off an orphan train in 1899 and help new friend Alexander to build Wanderville, a safe place for homeless children. (NoveList Plus)

Robots – science fiction

Brown, Peter. The wild robot. Roz the robot discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island with no memory of where she is from or why she is there, and her only hope of survival is to try to learn about her new environment from the island’s hostile inhabitants. (NoveList Plus)

DiTerlizzi, Tony. The search for WondLa. Living in isolation with a robot on what appears to be an alien world populated with bizarre life forms, a twelve-year-old human girl called Eva Nine sets out on a journey to find others like her. Features “augmented reality” pages, in which readers with a webcam can access additional information about Eva Nine’s world. (NoveList Plus)

Patterson, James. Robot revolution. Robots on strike! Sammy’s underappreciated mechanical helpers cause chaos in the house! It’s up to Sammy and his disabled sister Maddie to keep the peace until his inventor mom reveals her secret project…and why it was worth the wait. (NoveList Plus)

Winick, Judd. Waking the monsters. Hilo and his friends learn more about Hilo’s past while they battle robots that were buried underground on Earth a thousand years ago.  (NoveList Plus)

Futuristic World — science fiction

Clayton, Emma. The Roar. In an overpopulated world where all signs of nature have been obliterated and a wall has been erected to keep out plague-ridden animals, twelve-year-old Mika refuses to believe that his twin sister was killed after being abducted, and continues to search for her in spite of the dangers he faces in doing so.  (NoveList Plus)

Kade, J.V. Bot Wars. In a futuristic world where humans and robots are at war, a boy goes on a search to find his missing military father. (NoveList Plus)

Van Eekhout, Greg. The boy at the end of the world. Born half-grown in a world that is being destroyed, Fisher has instinctive knowledge of many things, including that he must avoid the robot that knows his name. (NoveList Plus)


McIntosh, Will.  Watchdog. Delacorte Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, 2017.



McIntosh, Will (author).

Oct. 2017. 192p. Delacorte, hardcover, $16.99 (9781524713843); Delacorte, library edition, $19.99 (9781524713867); Delacorte, e-book, $16.99 (9781524713850). Grades 4- 7.

REVIEW. First published September 14, 2017 (Booklist Online).

Twins Vick and Tara have been left to fend for themselves in this near-future tale, surviving by salvaging parts from a local dump. Their way of life, however, is threatened when the mysterious Ms. Alba, who clearly has ulterior motives, seizes control of the dump. When the twins get in a kerfuffle with her goons, and their tiny robotic dog, Daisy, nearly destroys one of Alba’s high-tech Watchdogs in the process, Alba takes notice, since Daisy is clearly something special: Tara upgraded Daisy with a salvaged piece of technology, so she is more sentient than the other run-of-the-mill, hunt-and-destroy Watchdogs. With the help of some other street urchins, Vick and Tara show the members of their community that they can— and should—stand up and fight back. Tara is an engrossing character who has a knack for technology, but she also suffers from stress-induced panic attacks as a side effect of her autism. This fast-paced sci-fi adventure with an unsettling dystopian atmosphere should find easy appeal among a wide range of readers. — Lindsey Tomsu

Used with the permission of Booklist

School Library Journal (July 1, 2017) 

Gr 4-6-In a near-future, robot-filled Chicago, things are tough for Vick and Tara, twins who are Brumbies, or homeless kids. Like others of their kind, they scavenge the city dump in search of scrap to sell or that Tara, who has autism, uses to make robots that are better than anyone else’s. Her talent gets them in trouble, though, when she creates a creature that ruthless forces will stop at nothing to capture. The twins must team up with a band of other techie Brumbies to outwit Ms. Alba and her henchmen, some of them fearsome robots, and find the safety they’ve craved since becoming orphans. Middle graders will enjoy the robot elements as well as the fast-paced action as the twins evade violence and mete out some of their own. McIntosh, author of adult speculative fiction and short stories, crafts a credible world with relatable characters. VERDICT This compelling drama with cool tech themes and bad guys getting their comeuppance is a winner; hand to fans of Michael Buckley’s “NERDS” and Stuart Gibbs’s “Spy School” series.-Henrietta Verma, National Information Standards Organization, Baltimore © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.  

Reprinted with permission from School Library Journal ©2017