PYRON, Bobbie. The Dogs of Winter. 312p. bibliog. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-39930-2; ebook $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-46985-2. LC 2011051519.
Gr 6-10–A relentless darkness underlies this riveting story of courage and determination. Told as a recollection of a five-year-old boy in Russia, the story follows Mishka Ivan Andreovich from his relatively comfortable and loving home with his mother and grandmother to the lonely and frightening life on the streets of Moscow in post-Soviet Russia. The early chapters offer a dramatic counterpoint to the tragedy following his grandmother’s death and the destruction of his mother’s spirits and will to go on. When she disappears, Ivan is left with her abusive lover, who mistreats him and eventually takes him to an orphanage. Ivan escapes, and the rest of the book focuses on his brutal, frightening, unpredictable life on the streets. His astonishing resilience grows from his determination to find his mother and stay out of an orphanage. He finds refuge of a sort with a small but wise group of children living in sewers and underground stations and then breaks away to survive with a band of wandering dogs. It becomes his family, and he and the dogs protect one another. His gentle, timid nature erodes as he develops street smarts, cunning, and unwavering bravery. This is a captivating, important story based on the life of Ivan Mishukov, a Russian boy who lived a similar adventure. The author’s note and extensive bibliography offer further insight into the underlying problems faced by Ivan and other children in Russia and around the world. Eva Hornung’s Dog Boy (Viking, 2010) was also inspired by Mishukov’s early life.–Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ