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The Dogs of Winter
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Dogs of Winter, based on a true story, is a harrowing account of 5-year-old Mishka, who's left to fend for himself on the streets of Moscow in the years after the Communist regime fell. It's a violent, harsh story with frequent descriptions of punching, hitting, kicking, scratching, and biting. Blood's mentioned but not described. Children and young teens are frequently depicted drinking, smoking, and huffing from paper bags. People and animals are frequently in peril, and Mishka sees more than his share of death. He's an admirable kid who refuses to steal and always shares what he has. This is a heartwarming yet bittersweet survival story.
What's the story?
When 5-year-old Mishka's mother disappears, her abusive boyfriend takes Mishka from his village and tries to turn him in to a Moscow orphanage. Mishka runs away and finds himself alone on unfamiliar streets just as winter is about to start. Mishka falls in with a gang of children, among hundreds of thousands, who live in a subway station and survive by begging and stealing. It's a harsh, violent world, with the children often turning on each other. Eventually Mishka befriends one of Moscow's many feral dogs and names him Lucky. Lucky brings Mishka into his pack, and together they're able to survive, if just barely. After living for so long with only the dogs for companionship and support, can Mishka ever return to human society?
Is it any good?
Not just for dog lovers, THE DOGS OF WINTER is a gripping survival tale -- based on a true story -- that takes readers on an astonishing journey filled with excitement, danger, heartache, and joy. Pyron writes from a 5-year-old's perspective with grit and heart, beautifully conveying his imperfect understanding of events without dumbing anything down.
Kids will admire Mishka as he insists on doing what's right, and they'll root for him as he and his family of dogs struggle to survive. Mishka's effort to find his place in the world will especially appeal to older grade schoolers and middle schoolers as their own world becomes wider and sometimes scarier, too.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why stories about dogs are so popular. What do we love so much about dogs? What can they teach us?
Is Mishka better off with the dogs than he would be in an orphanage? Why does Mishka think he's better off living with his dog family?
Homelessness is a big problem in Moscow and the United States. What are some things you can do to help homeless people and to help solve the problem?
- Author: Bobbie Pyron
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Great Boy Role Models, History, Misfits and Underdogs, Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
- Publication date: August 26, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.