Reviews for Dogs of Winter

Booklist Reviews 2012 December #2
*Starred 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 that 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 a grim, sometimes brutal realism, this novel offers a riveting story as well as material for reflection and discussion. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Spring
Ivan is one of the thousands of abandoned children living on the streets of Moscow in the mid-1990s when he is adopted by a pack of feral dogs who protect him from gangs and the harsh winter. Well-crafted sentences, lively dialogue, and a remarkable plot line (based on a true story) combine for an absorbing adventure tale that young readers will find irresistible.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #1
"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

Kirkus Reviews 2012 September #1
An orphaned boy in Russia survives as a member of a pack of dogs. Ivan is only 4 years old when he runs away to the streets of Moscow. At first, he is taken in by a scruffy group of children under one adult's control. They live in the subway stations, begging and stealing food. He soon befriends and is adopted by a small group of dogs and becomes one of them. They survive on the trains in the winter and in the forest during the summer. Ivan keeps a button belonging to his (probably dead) mother as a talisman and remembers the fairy tales she read to him. Increasingly, his time with the dogs provides nourishment for both his hungry belly and his soul. Threats are ever present in the form of police, gangs of teens and wild animals in the forest. Two years later he is captured, and after months of care, he regains his humanness. Pyron has based her story on magazine articles about a Russian feral child, one of hundreds of thousands whose lives were disrupted by the dissolution of the Soviet Union. She presents Ivan's story as a first-person narrative in beautifully composed writing enhanced by Ivan's visual acuity and depth of emotion. Terrifying, life-affirming and memorable. (author's note, bibliography) (Adventure. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 October #2

As she did in A Dog's Way Home (2011), Pyron delivers a reflective, hard-hitting story about the bond between child and dog--in this case, seven of them. Inspired by the real-life story of a boy who survived on the streets of Moscow in the mid-1990s, the novel exposes the plight of many homeless, orphaned Russian children after the fall of the Soviet Union. Mishka--abandoned at age five by an abusive man who lived with (and presumably killed) Mishka's mother--befriends a pack of bedraggled wild dogs; together, they beg and forage for food, sleep in metro stations, ride trains to stay warm, and avoid military personnel intent on capturing them. The book's emotional impact is immense; Mishka grapples with his identity as his memories of his mother gradually fade and he becomes increasingly feral. Though some scenes of Mishka and the dogs' trials can be a bit repetitive, their sameness underscores their unremitting and often heartbreaking battle to survive, day after day. Ages 10-14. Agent: Alyssa Eisner Henkin, Trident Media Group. (Oct.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 December

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

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VOYA Reviews 2012 December
Ivan Andreovich is just five years old when he and his mother become victims in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend. One morning, he awakes to discover his mother has disappeared. He struggles to understand what has happened when the man takes him, by train, from his village in Russia. Ivan bolts away when he realizes at journey's end that the man intends to leave him in an orphanage. His home and loving mother are replaced by a life on the streets; first, with a rag tag group of children and teens, and then with a pack of feral dogs. Caring for the dogs motivates Ivan not to give in to thievery to survive. Lines blur as to who is taking care of whom in this boy-and-dog tale Pyron's fictional story is based on the true story of Ivan Mishukov, a child who, from the age of four, survived two years of living on the streets, including Russia's harsh winters, among a pack of dogs. This book fits the bill for readers who enjoy survivalist stories and/or love dogs. The story is told in two parts, made up of thirty-five short chapters. This style may appeal to reluctant readers, but they may also become frustrated with the author's prolonged narrative. Perhaps the author intends for the reader to experience Ivan's feelings of hopelessness and desperation by joining him in his two- to three-year odyssey over 303 pages. Ivan Mishukov's story is fascinating, but the news articles noted by the author leave most of his story a mystery--Pyron has filled in the blanks for the reader.--Jeanine Fox 3Q 4P M Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.