Title: The Dogs of Winter
Author: Bobbie Pyron
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Publication Date: Oct 2012
Classification: Middle Grade Novel
Summary from Goodreads:
A small boy, a cruel city, and the incredible dogs who save him.
Based on a true story!
When Ivan’s mother disappears, he’s abandoned on the streets of Moscow, with little chance to make it through the harsh winter. But help comes in an unexpected form: Ivan is adopted by a pack of dogs, and the dogs quickly become more than just his street companions: They become his family. Soon Ivan, who used to love reading fairytales, is practically living in one, as he and his pack roam the city and countryside, using their wits to find food and shelter, dodging danger, begging for coins. But Ivan can’t stay hidden from the world of people forever. When help is finally offered to him, will he be able to accept it? Will he even want to?
A heart-pounding tale of survival and a moving look at what makes us human.
Near the end of last year I told myself that I wanted to start reading more middle grade books. I have kept my eyes open for the very best in the genre and when I was contacted about this book I jumped at the chance to read it. It sounded like a younger version of Between Shades of Grey. It is actually funny since the author of Between Shades of Grey has a blurb on the back of the book.
This story grabbed me from the beginning because I wanted to see how Ivan loses his home and ends up on the streets. I will say the way he ended up on the streets nearly broke my heart. He loses his mother and the mother’s strange boyfriend basically removes him from the only home he has ever known to give him away. Watching Ivan in the very beginning of the book I certainly wondered how on Earth he was going to survive, he was only 5 years old! He did find a gang of kids to help him find his place and I thought it was touching how Ivan didn’t want to be like them, he clung to his old life. However, the streets will harden any child and Ivan had to start learning the sacrifices he would make in order to survive during Russia’s bitter winter.
Ivan will grip your heart throughout the course of the book and not let go. I found myself turning the pages faster and faster as the story went on because I needed to see Ivan leave the gang of kids to go live with a pack of dogs. I found myself fascinated as Ivan slowly started to lose humanity because he saw how harsh the world was and he just wanted to retreat to a place where he could be with the dogs who loved and cared for him. The bond between the dogs and Ivan was something I didn’t suspect. However, the biggest part of the book that I loved was the fact that Ivan really lost touch with the world. He was such a smart little boy but he had changed over the course of the book. He started to accept that he would never see his mother again and that he was on his own and that a pack of dogs were the only family members he had. It was amazing to watch Ivan throughout the whole book. The ending left me in happy tears and it was a story well worth reading.
Overall, when I first started this book I will admit that I was a little scared of where it would go. The book seemed to be pretty dark for a middle grade read. I was a bit confused how all of these dark pieces could fit in a middle grade read. I would honestly suggest this one for older kids who can handle such a dark subject matter. While it was dark it was an awesome read that I encourage many to read, it will break your heart, leave you speechless, and make you happy you read it.
About the Author:
My life took many twists and turns before I finally realized that dream at age nine, and became a published author. First, I went to college and got degrees in psychology and anthropology. For a time, I was a singer in a rock and roll band. Then I went back to college and got a degree to work as a librarian. I’ve worked as a librarian now for over twenty-five years. Finally, six years ago, I sat down and wrote my first novel. I didn’t stop this time at page thirty-two, even though I still found writing to be hard. But I couldn’t not write, so I kept going. In October of 2009 that book was published!