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