Monday, December 31, 2012

Horn Book Review of The Dogs of Winter!

When you've been a librarian as long as I have (let's just say, I've been a librarian waaaaay before the Internet!), there are certain book review periodicals you always read. Some, like Publisher's Weekly and Booklist, can be counted on to give even-handed reviews, and are not particularly stingy with their "starred" reviews. Others, like Kirkus, are notorious for being brutally honest and hard to please. Many writers dread reading their review from Kirkus.

And then there's Horn Book Magazine. Horn Book is venerated amongst librarians and other folks deeply interested in and committed to the world of children's literature. The Horn Book can be counted on to carry in-depth discussions on just about every aspect of children's literature. They also review books. Some books. Not many. Just to have your book get reviewed in Horn Book Magazine is an accomplishment; to have a good review in Horn Book is really something to be proud of!

So I'm very proud to share with you this review of The Dogs of Winter which appears in the latest issue of Horn Book Magazine:


The Dogs of Winter

by Bobbie Pyron
Intermediate, Middle School Levine/Scholastic 312 pp.
10/12 978-0-545-39930-2 $16.99
e-book ed. 978-0-545-46985-2 $16.99
“We’ve all lost our mothers, stupid,” young Mishka Ivan Andreovich is informed by rat-faced Viktor, one of a group of homeless children subsisting in Moscow’s train station. Ivan’s grandmother, Babushka Ina, died; his mother has disappeared; and now he has no family. The Soviet Union has fallen, and with it went the safety net that might have saved the desperately poor. And so Ivan joins the thousands of abandoned children living on the streets of Moscow in the mid-1990s. When Ivan is adopted by a pack of feral dogs, he chooses to live with them instead, begging for food and sharing it with the dogs, who, in return, protect him from ruthless gangs and the harsh Russian winter. Ivan always remembers the book of fairy tales his mother used to read to him every night, and in Pyron’s simple and elegant prose, Ivan’s story becomes a modern fairy tale of orphans and dark woods and children who no longer know any safe paths to follow. Well-crafted sentences, lively dialogue, and a remarkable story line combine for an absorbing adventure tale that young readers will find irresistible. Based on the true experiences of then-four-year-old Ivan Mishukov, this is just one child’s tale, representing the estimated 100 million street children worldwide (as discussed in the author’s note). When a young boy finds his chances of survival better among a pack of feral dogs than among violent children, readers may well wonder what exactly it is that makes us human. Dean Schneider

Monday, December 17, 2012

Fido and Friend in Five: Sheila O'Connor and Rollo!

Keeping Safe 
Sheila O'Connor
In case you've ever wondered, I do occassionally read fiction written for adults--even adult fiction books that have nothing to do with dogs. I just recently finished Barbara Kingsolver's new book, Flight Behavior, and I'm listening to the audiobook of Gone Girl, a book everybody is talking about. What these books have done for me is reaffirmed why I really prefer to read books written for kids and teens. Why? Because I get sick of reading about infidelity, deceit, murder, and betrayal. I really don't enjoy reading fiction populated with characters I loathe, where there's not a single character I even remotely like. Or, as in the case of Flight Behavior, I feel beat over the head with a "messege." Yes, yes, I know not all adult fiction is like this, and yes, I've read some fine books. But once you're spoiled by authors like Sharon Creech, Kate DiCamillo, Gary Schmidt and many, many more who write such beautiful, funny, heartfelt novels, well, it's hard to go back.

Sparrow Road
Sheila O'Connor is one such author. Her novels are poetic and populated with people--sometimes flawed people--trying to do their best. I've had the great pleasure to read two of her middle grade novels, Sparrow Road and her new book, Keeping Safe the Stars. Sparrow Road, which received starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, is populated with a rich assortment of characters all trying to find their best selves and their dreams. Like her new book, Keeping Safe the Stars, it is a book that celebrates the human connection and the universality of emotion. Her coming of age novel, Where No Gods Came, won the Minnesota Book Award and the Michigan Award for Literary Fiction.

Sheila's poems, essays, and stories have appeared in many anthologies and magazines. She also teaches fiction in the MFA program at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota and serves as editor of Water-Stone Review. 

Let's meet this charming duo in today's Fido and Friend in Five:

Saved by love
Heart to heart
1. How did you and Rollo find each other?  It was late fall, our beloved dog Buddy had recently died, and my twenty-year-old daughter saw a photo of some rescue puppies at a shelter three hours north of our house. Although I made her promise we wouldn't necessarily adopt one, of course I began to soften the minute I held Rollo to my heart (isn't that a beautiful way of putting it?). He was so calm, so full of gentle love, with these giant soulful eyes. The shelter was a dismal place, dirty and overcrowded with cages stacked on top of one another, and the pack of puppies looked desperate to be loved. I just couldn't leave him there. Fifteen minutes later, I wrote a check and signed the papers. The three of us drove home through a pounding rainstorm, Rollo in my daugher's lap. She held him while he slept, and while he suffered serious bouts of car sickness. By the time we made it back to Minneapolis, my daughter, the car, our brand new pup--everything was a mess! The first few months were rough. Rollo had a host of illnesses, stomach problems, infections, endless vet visits, and mounting bills. Every couple of days, we had to cook his food--giant pots of chicken, sweet potatoes, ect. It was real work, but his big, kind heart kept us in the game. And happily, he's strong and healthy now. If a sick dog can be saved by love, then Rollo was. He was adored by all: my son, my daughter, my husband. Everyone wanted to be near him, to hold him, and to love him. In his first nights home, my son put a mattress on the kitchen floor so he could hold him in his sleep. My daughter brought an endless stream of toys for Rollo to destroy. He was the center of our family's joy; he helped us recover from the great grief of losing Buddy.

Racing to the top!
2. What makes Rollo's tail wag?  Rollo is a happy spirit; it's rare his tail doesn't wag. He loves visitors of all kinds, long romps in the park, racing to the top of Browndale Hill, the sight of any dog who wants to romp and race. But perhaps his greatest love is children. He has a mad love for small beings, and will mourn for hours when there are children playing in the park across the street without him. The sound of a child's laugh will cause him to leap up from a nap and run to the window, wagging with hope. His other great happiness is the return of our own children, both grown now and living elsewhere. He can't contain his happiness when those kids who loved him first finally come home.

3. What's your all time favorite dog story?  We had a family vote on this; we had so many dog books we loved. But our all-time favorite is a picture book we read and re-read and re-read when the kids were young: Theodor and Mr. Balbini by Petra Mathers. Those two characters are completely real to us, and we still find occasions to reference Mr. Balbini's sadness when Theodore longs for a life beyond "routine."

High Five!
4. If Rollo could change just one thing about you, what would it be?  If Rollo were in charge, I'd read less books, write less books, spend less time in a chair grading student papers. Frankly, he finds books to be a bore. All that reading looks like wasted time to him. The minute he sees me settling in to work, he drops a ball or Frisbee in my lap. I think he'd like me to retire.

5. In five words, tell us what Rollo means to you:  Joy without end, love forever.

Cold noses, warm hearts
Want to find out what Sheila's favorite food is, or what the stupidest thing is she ever did as a kid? Be sure to visit her lovely website! Thanks Rollo and Sheila!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Another Starred Review!

I am so honored to have just received this starred review from Booklist for The Dogs of Winter!

[STARRED REVIEW] The Dogs of Winter. By Bobbie Pyron. 2012. 320p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $16.99 (9780545399302); e-book, $16.99 (9780545469852). Gr. 5–9. REVIEW
Set in Russia during the 1990s and loosely based on a true story, this absorbing novel tells of a vulnerable and suddenly homeless five-year-old boy. Ivan is taken in by a gang of children who beg and steal to survive, but soon he joins a pack of street dogs, who become his surrogate family for the next two years. Foraging for food and protecting each other, they navigate the dangers of the city in winter and the forest in warmer weather. The opening pages of the first-person narrative, in which Ivan recalls the warmth of his early childhood with his mother and grandmother, provide insight into the emotional base that anchors him in the troubling, sometimes violent times to come. In the final chapters, the boy’s experiences when authorities separate him from the dogs and attempt to integrate him into human society seem even more painful than his previous adaptation to loss, privation, and fear. The many vivid details of street life and the convincing portrayals of even minor characters help bring the story to life. A source bibliography is appended. Written with compassion as well as grim, sometimes brutal realism, this novel offers a riveting story as well as material for reflection and discussion.
—Carolyn Phelan

That makes three starred reviews for The Dogs of Winter, plus it made Kirkus's 100 Best Children's Books of 2012. I'm one proud mama!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Great Review from School Library Journal!

Well, the reviews keep rolling in for my new book, The Dogs of Winter, and they've been showing the book a lot of love. Kirkus Reviews gave it a (rare) starred review and named it as one of the best books of the year! The Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books also gave it a starred review. Here is the latest review, this time from School Library Journal. No star this time, but lots of really good things to say:

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

Thanks SLJ!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Fido and Friend in Five: Lisa Rogak and her pack of friends!

There are a lot of really cool and interesting things I could tell you (and will tell you) about author Lisa Rogak, and here's one: she drives a red hearse--yes, I said a hearse--named Ruby. Ruby is, in fact, the seventh hearse Lisa has had. Why drive a hearse? Because, as well as being a prolific writer of nonfiction, she's also an accomplished musician and a hearse is, well, roomy. But really, as Lisa explains on her website, "Hearses get in your blood." Well, sure. I knew that.

Lisa has been an author and journalist for thirty years and has published over fourty books. She's covered everything from sabbaticals to baby names to funeral food customs. The last few years, she's primarily focused on writing biographies, including one on Michelle Obama and Shel Silverstein. Her 2008 book, Barack Obama In his Own Words, hit the New York Times Best Seller List. Her biography, Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King, was nominated for an Edgar. Lisa had also written two books about dogs--Dogs of War and most recently Dogs of Courage--which is how she and I found each other! She emailed me and said, "Hey, would you like to read Dogs of Courage" and I emailed back and said, "Heck yeah, and by the way, do you have a dog" and here we are!

Ruby The Hearse
Lisa is a woman of great curiosity and a great amount of energy. She once started a greeting card company for dogs and cats, bought and sold vintage funeral equipment (who does that?), and served as a ghost writer. She's a classically-trained pianist who also plays jazz and blues on an upright bass. Hence the need for a roomy car, so why the heck not a hearse?

Lisa has lived the vagabond life, traveling far and wide. For that reason, she is not, alas, owned by a dog. But she is the enthusiastic "Aunt Lisa" to a pack of various friends dogs. Let's meet this fascinating lady and her four-footed buds in today's Fido and Friend in Five!

Sam & Cosmo
1. How did you and these dogs find each other?  Currently, to my great dismay, I am owned by no dog of my own because I travel so much. So I serve as Good Mommy to two dogs in New Hampshire I visit frequently, who own a friend of mine who's consequently known as Bad Mommy. Cosmo--aka Little Shit, Napoleon, Haggis, or GETOUTTATHEKITCHEN--is a rescued Lhasa Apso about 7 years old. Sam--aka Bear or Idjit--is a rescued Boykin spanial mix from South Carolina who's around 5 years old. I am also Crazy Aunt to a Shih Tzu named Reagan, who I rescued and delivered to a long-time friend back in 2007. Dog and human were joined at the hip within five seconds of meeting.

When I'm home in Berkley, I walk dogs at the local shelter.

Think Cosmo likes food?
2. What makes these dogs tails wag?  For Cosmo, it's when I'm in the kitchen. He's so food-driven that he's constantly trying to trip me or distract me when I'm cooking so I happen to drop something. For Sam, it's when he sees me put my running shoes on. He's always good for a run that's about twice as long as I can manage.

3. What's your all-time favorite dog story?  May I humbly suggest my own? When researching The Dogs of Courage, there were so many inspiring stories about how dogs just innately know how to help humans, and they usually know better than the humans in their care. From the highly trained therapy, search-and-rescue and medical detection dogs, to the untrained mutts who will instictively jump in front of a train to save their humans, there's no shortage of great dog stories out there, with more being created every day, everywhere.

Oh no! Not the quills!
4. If these dogs could change just one thing about you, what would it be?  To live with them full time because I spoil them rotten! Ergo, the Good Mommy moniker.

5. In five words (or more) tell us what dogs mean to you:  They remind me not to sweat the small stuff or the big stuff, for that matter. There's a great passage I include in Dogs of Courage that sums it all up: "Everybody has to deal with their own mortality. Dogs make us do that," said Larry Madrid, animal trainer for movies including Marley and Me. "They bring so much pleasure to your life, but you look back at the great dogs you've had, the great times, and realize, 'Geez, they only live about ten years.' So make the most of those years. Dogs do."

Thanks so much to Lisa Rogak for sending me her truly inspiring book Dogs of Courage! I'm serious when I say be sure to visit her website. It is really funny and amazing! If you don't laugh out loud when you read parts of it, there's something wrong...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Another Star for THE DOGS OF WINTER!

I'm so happy to announce that my new book, The Dogs of Winter, has received its second starred review! The first one was from the notoriously-hard-to-please Kirkus Review. Now, The Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books has given my book its second star. And I think it's also one of the more astute reviews:

Pyron, Bobbie The Dogs of Winter. Levine/Scholastic, 2012 [320p] Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-545-39930-2 $16.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-545-46985-2 $16.99 Reviewed from galleys   R* Gr. 5-9 In the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union, life is a struggle for many poor Russians. Five-year-old Mishka (his nickname from his mother) has been ejected from his home by his mother’s brutal boyfriend, who has apparently killed Mishka’s mother, and he’s struggling to survive on the streets of Moscow rather than end up in the city’s legendarily savage orphanages. Initially connecting with a crowd of street kids who eke out a living in one of the city’s railroad stations, gentle Mishka is upset by their violence and immorality, and he’s increasingly drawn to the friendly yet cunning dogs that are also scavenging to survive. Soon he forsakes human company entirely and becomes part of the dog pack, helping them find food and benefiting from their warmth and protection.
As a note explains, Pyron bases her story on a real child, one of Moscow’s many street children in the 1990s, who lived for two years with a pack of dogs (a story also explored in Eva Hornung’s adult title Dog Boy). She’s used that story to create a compelling and highly original fiction, with Mishka’s experiences somewhere between Holman’s Slake’s Limbo (BCCB 4/75) and The Jungle Book (indeed, the police trying to catch him call him “Mowgli”). The underlying picture of the street kids is a grim and affecting one: having few acceptable options, they take refuge in drugs and drink and survive by prostitution and violence—or they don’t survive at all. Mishka’s life with the dogs is actually less feral-seeming than theirs; there’s considerably more affection (he even embraces an elderly dog as a substitute for his kindly late grandmother) and loyalty in the dog pack, and the dog characters are as vivid as Mishka’s human acquaintances. The book flirts with fantasy in Mishka’s communication with his dog compatriots, but even that could be easily construed as his own interpretations. An absorbing account in its own right, this could also partner with Gerstein’s Victor (BCCB 12/98) for two very different looks at (purportedly) wild children. An extensive bibliography about feral children and Russian child poverty in general as well as the book’s particular inspiration is appended. DS

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fido and Friend in Five: Joan Bauer and Max!

I don't know many authors out there who wouldn't be excited to have their latest book reviewed in the New York Times. Joan Bauer was lucky enough last month to have her latest middle grade novel, Almost Home, reviewed in the New York Times Book Review by none other than Marley and Me author, John Grogan! And he liked it--he really liked it! Even better, Kirkus gave it a starred review, saying, "Sugar, with her natural gift for rubbing down imperfection, will win reader's hearts." Joan is no stranger to rave reviews. Many of her eleven books have won the Newbery Honor, Schneider Family Book Award, two Christopher Awards, the Chicago Tribune Young Adult Literary Prize among others. And I personally think Almost Home should win the award (if there was one) for most charming book jacket. I mean, really? Who could resist that face? Those eyes?

Almost Home is the story of a big-hearted little girl, Sugar Mae Cole, trying very hard to hold on to her dreams. She and her mom and rescue dog, Shush, find themselves homeless instead of making a new start like they'd planned. After Sugar and her mom become separated, Sugar and Shush wind up in foster care. Through poems and grit, Sugar does everything she can to make her dreams come true.

When I checked out Joan's website, I was delighted to see she has a dog. I was even more delighted when she agreed to share the spotlight on Fido and Friend in Five with her beloved Wheaton Terrier, Max. Let's find out what makes Max's tail wag and what Joan's favorite dog story is in today's Fido and Friend in Five!

1. How did you and Max find each other? It was very much a how-much-is-that-doggy-in-the-window moment. My husband and I were walking past this very good and reputable pet store in Manhattan, and this adorable, 11-week-old Wheaten Terrier was rolling around with his sister in the store window. I fell in love. My friend said, "That's your dog." We went inside--to meet him, you understand, nothing more. Major bonding occurred. Major. The cuteness factor was beyond anything. My husband and I went to a bookstore to read about Wheaton Terriers. Two hours later we went back and, well, we bought him.

2. What makes Max's tail wag?  When we come through the front door--even if we've been outside for a couple of minutes, it's a big moment for him. And his stub of a tail (my favorite part of this beast) just goes back and forth like crazy. It's too adorable. He also wages at the neighbors and other dogs. He's a friendly little guy. He has never once wagged at the UPS man, however--to Max, that is the arch enemy.

3. What's your all-time favorite dog story?  Certainly, I read all the dog books, but my husband and I love the movie "Eight Below" which has a whole lot of dogs in the snow doing courageous things. Max watches that movie transfixed, and I think he has a crush on Maya, the girl dog.

4. If Max could change just one thing about you, what would that be?  Probably that I would rub him longer. It's not like I don't have time to do this! But no matter how deep the rubbing goes, when I stop, he looks at me like, "What's the matter with you?" Sometimes he'll take my hand in his mouth and try to put it back on his tummy. (I have to say, I LOVE this image!)

5. In five words, tell us what Max means to you:  That's hard, Bobbie! Faithful furball who understands all.

Many, many thanks to Joan and Max for taking time out from tummy rubs to be on Fido and Friend in Five! Be sure to check out Joan's website and her blog to find out more about her books and what good things she's doing. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fido and Friend in Five: Susan Goodman and Ella!

Susan Goodman
One of the many things I love about Susan Goodman's website is it says, "Who says research can't be fun?" As a librarian and bloodhound of a researcher, I couldn't agree more! So how great is it that she's passing that message along to kids with her wonderfully fun and fascinating non-fiction books. I mean, how can kids resist titles like It's a Dog's Life, All In Just One Cookie, The Truth About Poop, Life on the Ice, and many more? How many more? Susan has written 30 books for kids, plus (are you sitting down?) approximately 225 articles for kids! She's also written many articles for the adult audience in National Geographic Traveler, Modern Maturity, Redbook, Glamour, Parents, Self, and many many other periodicals.

Susan was nice enough to send me a signed copy of her new book (which she knew would be near and dear to my heart), It's A Dog's Life: How Man's Best Friend Sees, Hears, and Smells the World. I wish I'd had a copy when I was research doggy senses for A Dog's Way Home! Susan is running a really fun contest on her website that you can enter to win a copy of It's a Dog's Life! Be sure to check it out.

Susan does an awful lot of traveling with all her research, so she doesn't have a dog herself. But she is the very proud "grandmother" to her son's dog, Ella. She and Ella spend as much time as possible together when Susan is home. I'm sure she does what every good grandparent does: spoils that grandchild rotten and then send her home.

Let's help her spoil Ella in today's Fido and Friend in Five:

1. How did you and Ella find each other?  I got a phone call right after my son, Matthew, adopted her from the City Pound in Manhattan. She was a five-month-old pup who came right up to the front of her cage and licked his hand. He was seriously thinking about another dog from a no-kill shelter, but when Ella was released from her cage, she jumped right into his lap. That was it for Matt. It didn't take much longer for her to jump onto our couch/bed/arm chairs/laps the first time she visited us.

2. What makes Ella's tail wag?  The people she loves. When I haven't seen her for a while, that tail is going so fast it feels like a drumstick solo playing its beat against my leg. Of course, any new toy has tail-wagging potential until its been demoted to "old toy" status or has been chewed to bits.

3. What's your all-time favorite dog story?  That's like asking which of my children I love best; it's unanswerable. The story that had the most effect upon me? Old Yeller. Just mention it to any kid of my generation and we all get that traumatized look (that would be me). Since I don't want you to think I'm always into pathos, I won't say anything about Hachiko, which is such a poignant story. Let's go with Balto, the hero dog, and Toto too!

"I love my Boy"
4. If Ella could change just one thing about you, what would it be?  Since Ella is my grand dog, this question should really be asked about her true love, Matthew. Then she'd be very clear: give me people food and take me on longer walks! Since I get to play the indulgent grandparent, I already do both of those things!

5. In five words, tell us what Ella means to you:  Matt would say, "She's my sidekick" and not to worry about the word count. I'll just say, "Ella makes my son happy (and me too)."

Many thanks to Susan and Ella for joining us today on Fido
and Friend in Five. And thanks to Matt for sharing Ella
with us too. Be sure to cruise Susan's website. You'll be glad
you did!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fido and Friend in Five: Randi Reisfeld and DJ!

What the Dog Said
Randi Reisfeld
Randi Reisfeld is one of those authors that must run on one hour of sleep a night. And she's one of those authors that leaves me feeling like a total slouch. I mean, she's got close to 100 books and articles published! Can you believe that? She started out (when she was probably 12) as an editor at 16 Magazine, interviewing and writing about celebrities. How jealous do you think I am that she actually interviewed Johnny Depp?! Very! She also interviewed Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Michael Jackson and many others.

Randi went from writing articles about mega-stars to writing books about stars, and then original stories based on movies such as Clueless and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. She also worked closely with author HB Gilmour. Together, the wrote T*Witches, which became a ten-book series. They also wrote a number of other series for teens and tweens including Oh, Baby and Making Waves. 

Making Waves
Her new, stand-alone novel, is the one that caught my attention and led me to her. What the Dog Said is a poignant, funny, fanciful and emotionally impactful story about loss and love. Thirteen-year-old Grace's beloved father is killed by a possibly not-so-random shooting. Grace is utterly devastated. Then a very special rescue dog named Rex comes into her life. He loves her, he understands her, and he talks to her--literally! Rex also helps her solve the mystery of what really happened to her dad, and he helps her heal. Trouble is, Rex is being trained as a service dog. The day will come soon when Grace must give him away. But can she?

Fortunately, DJ is Randi's forever dog. Let's meet the two of them in today's Fido and Friend in Five:

1. How did you and DJ (Desmond Jones) find each other?  Our dog is a Barbet. He's a French water dog--very much like a Portuguese water dog, which we've had in the past. That's the same kind of dog President Obama and his family have. We were looking for a similar breed--that is, a non-shedder, medium sized, good with kids, less headstrong than the Porties, joyful, and loyal. We found the Barbet at the "Meet the Breeds" expo in New York City, sponsored by the AKC. Right now, the Barbet is on the "waiting list" for acceptance into the AKC. So far, it's rare in the U.S., but very popular in Europe and Canada. In fact, this year, we are part of the group exhibiting our dog a the very same "Meet the Breeds" expo in which we found him. He's a great pup and I hope to get another (her name would be Mollie Jones. Desmond and Mollie are from the Beatles song, "Obla Di, Obla Da."
Desmond Jones

2. What makes DJ's tail wag?  Going for a walk, getting treats, playing with other dogs, getting his belly rubbed. Lots of petting and affection.

3.  What's your all-time favorite dog story?  I have to say, What the Dog Said. I did read The Story of Edward Sawtell  and The Art of Racing in the Rain, and other popular books. Alas, I wasn't impressed. I plan to read others--including your newest.

4. If DJ could change just one thing about you, what would it be?  Letting him eat table food, and never leaving him alone.

5. In five words, tell us what DJ means to you:  Unconditional love, affection, companionship, laughter (puppies are hysterical!), happiness.

So, so true! Many thanks to Randi and DJ for taking time out of their busy schedules to visit Fido and Friend in Five. Be sure to check out Randi's website to see what all she's written and find out more about her. She's one prolific lady!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

First Fan Letter for THE DOGS OF WINTER

About a week and a half ago, during a school visit, I had the good fortune to meet a woman who had lived and worked in Russia (as a teacher) in 1993, just as the Soviet Union was crumbling. We talked about her experiences there and I, of course, told her about my new book, The Dogs of Winter. I told her I was nervous about writing a story set in a place so foreign to me, that I hadn't even been to. I also told her the doubts I'd had over the years about my "right" (as an American) to tell this child's story.

This morning, when I opened my email, I saw that she'd written. I was nervous: I knew she'd bought a copy of The Dogs of Winter and had planned to read it. I also know she is a passionate and very discerning reader. Here is what she wrote:

Not only did I read it within 24 hours, I’ve already told 2 middle school librarians to purchase it immediately.  Emailed my book club, to give them a heads up that “Dogs of Winter” will be the November read AND got my 16 yr old daughter to read it (who by the way is the twilight lover & only likes teen romance books)!  Remember how I kept talking about “Between Shades of Gray”?  It’s my book of conversation w/everyone that will listen.  Well, it’s been replaced.  You know that I read a lot of books but a select few stay with me forever.  I like to think of them as my “life changer books”.  “Dogs of Winter” is now on that select list. This book spoke to me. I can honestly tell you that I dreamt about these amazing dogs two nights in a row after reading it.

You had been a little apprehensive about writing a book based in Russia, having never been there.  Well Bobbie, you had me fooled.  You sold me at the very beginning when you briefly talked about “Mother hanging clothes on the line on the balcony”.  I did that weekly, we all did.  The sleeping arrangement of Mishka with Mother & Babushka.  I lived like that with my host families.  I could go on and on about the vivid & correct descriptions of how you portrayed life in Russia

Your book made me feel so many emotions. I became so home sick while reading your book that I called my “Russian Mom” Galina on Monday just to tell her that I loved her.  I told her about your book & she said to tell you “Balshoy Spasiba” for writing a book about her countries babies!  Balshoy Spasiba means Great Big Thank You.   

I seriously could go on and on about this book but I’ll save that for people that haven’t read it.  I’m so thankful that you listened to that voice that told you to write this story.  I’m thankful for your talent & can’t wait to see what you come up with next.  I’m thankful to have met you & been inspired by you.  I hope to be able to stay in contact with you, even if it’s just checking up on your blog.

Thank you Bobbie!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Waiting to speak
Me and Ivan
This past Saturday was the official birth-day party for my new book, The Dogs of  Winter! As with A Dog's Way Home, the launch party was hosted by The King's English Bookshop, the best little indie bookstore in the West. Even though it was a gorgeous fall day and a holiday weekend (Columbus Day, or as I like to call it Rape And Pillage the Local Peoples Day), friends turned out to help me celebrate the release of a book that was a long time in coming.

I talked for about a half hour about the "story behind the story" of The Dogs of Winter. And I also told the crowd about my personal journey with Ivan Mishukov's story. I saw a few people in the audience wiping at their eyes. Of course, it could have been allergies...
Signing my heart out

Then came the signing and cake! The King's English always does an amazing job with the cakes. They're not only beautiful but entirely delicious. This one had a scrumptious blueberry filling. Of course, I was so busy signing books, I didn't get a piece until the end. But my husband assures me he ate an extra one for me.

A whole stack of special orders!
If you missed the party but would still like a signed copy of The Dogs of  Winter, you can order one from The King's English Bookshop. Just indicate in the message field that you'd like a signed copy. They'll get it off in the mail to you toot sweet!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Book Jacket Art

One of the really cool things about selling foreign rights to your books is getting to see what publishers in other countries do with your jacket covers. A Dog's Way Home has sold in Germany, Poland, and Russia. The publisher in Poland chose to keep the same gorgeous cover the book has here. But the publishers in Germany and Russia did something entirely different!

Often, they also change the title of your original work because it may not translate well in their language. So for instance, although the publisher in Poland kept the same U.S. cover, they slightly altered the title to A Dog's Path Home. I think the word "way" didn't translate well.
German cover

The German publisher created this exquisite cover, and changed the title to Lost in the Wilderness. They also included some beautiful art inside the book.

The Russian publisher did this great cover with a lost dog poster--very clever! The title in Russian now read My Faithful Friend, Tam. At least that's what I've been told. I don't have a good image of the Russian cover yet, but I'll post it when I do.

What cover do you like best?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fido and Friend in Five: Monika Schröder and Frank!

Monika & Frank
My Brother's Shadow
A while back, I got an email from my friend and Fido and Friend alum, Augusta Scattergood, that said, "I met this author at an event in North Carolina this weekend. You need to have her on Fido and Friend in Five!" I was, of course, familiar with Monika Schröder because of her books which we have in the library where I work. I went on Monika's website just to check her out and, WOW! What a story she and her dog Frank have! I'll tell you more about their amazing story in just a minute. So then, I contacted Monika about being on Fido and Friend (which she graciously agreed to) and we discovered we have all kinds of things in common! She was a librarians (I still am). We both have had books with the word "dog" in the title get starred reviews from Kirkus. We both have a dog rescued from the streets. We both have husbands named Todd (who like to take naps), and we both are friends with one of our favorite authors (and also, I might add, a F&F alum) Barbara O'Conner. And as it turns out, Monika and her Todd (and Frank) live in the little town of Mars Hill in the mountains of North Carolina--a place I lived many years ago!

Monika grew up in Germany and worked as a research assistant in the German parliament. She's taught at international schools in Egypt (where she met her Todd), Chile, and Oman. She taught first grade and later became a school librarian in New Delhi, India. Two very important things came out of those years in India: her highly acclaimed book, Saraswati's Way, and her dog, Frank.

As anyone who's been to India knows, there are lots and lots of homeless dogs living on the streets. They're everywhere, begging and scavenging what they can to survive. Many are malnourished and have lost their fur to mange. Frank was one such dog. As Monika tells us, "During winter break of 2009, a small, honey-colored dog appeared in front of gate two of our school's compound. He always gave a friendly wag of his tail when he saw us coming and would sometimes accompany me on my morning run."Eventually, Frank won a permanent home in Monika and Todd's hearts and home. But like my street dog, Boo, life with an ex-street dog wasn't easy. Like Boo, he didn't get along with other dogs and he had not had the early socialization skills he needed to live in a "civilized" world. And like my Boo Girl, Frank is an excellent mouser, and probably too smart for his own good. Still, as Monika says on her website, "Frank has become a much valued author-companion. He listens to me when I read a draft aloud and calls me for a walk when he senses I need a break. He also loves stretching next to me on the couch while I write."Frank has traveled to Germany on holiday and moved with Monika and Todd to the U.S. in 2011.
New Delhi street dogs

No doubt Frank was a huge help as Monika wrote her latest book, My Brother's Shadow. Set in Berlin during World War I, My Brother's Shadow, is a haunting, fast-paced coming of age story informed by the devastation of war.

Let's meet these two world travelers in today's Fido and Friend in Five:

1. How did you and Frank find each other?
Frank finds a home!
My husband and I used to work at the American Embassy School in New Delhi, India. We lived on the school’s compound and during winter break 2009/10 we noticed a honey colored street dog “hanging out” outside the school gate. Many dogs live on the streets in India. They often attach themselves to a guard post or a construction site, waiting for handouts. This beautiful, smart looking dog showed up every morning and then began to accompany me on my morning jog. He had the most expressive face and on the last day of winter break we decided to take him in.
Frank loves music!

2. What makes Frank's tail wag?
He loves when it's time for his walk. He also gets excited when his dinner is being prepared and he likes when his friend Bucky comes to play.

3. What's your all-time favorite dog story?
When I was still a school librarian I used to love reading MOVE OVER ROVER to kindergarteners. They would all chant the refrain of the book and we laughed a lot. I also like HOW TO STEAL A DOG and BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE. 

4. If Frank could change just one thing about you, what would that be?
"It reads better this way, Mom."
He probably would have me take the fence around the garden down. He would rather roam freely and chase cats and squirrels in the neighborhood. But we worry that he gets hit by a car or lost so we need to keep him within the fenced area.

"Fascinating? You bet!"
5. In five words, tell us what Frank means to you:
Adorable pet, love, fascinating companion.

Thanks so much to Monika and Frank for visiting with Fido
and Friend in Five! To find out more about Monika and her books,
and to see more photos of Frank, visit her website.