Imagine your mother disappearing, leaving you with someone you don’t know and don’t trust. Imagine being forced from your home, onto the streets of a busy city, left to find food and shelter, or to starve and freeze. Now imagine all of this taking place when you were only four years old. That is exactly what happens to Ivan in The Dogs of Winter, a new book by Bobbie Pyron, which is based on a true story. Left with nowhere to go, and no one to turn to, Ivan begins living on the streets of Moscow, Russia.
However, Ivan is not alone for very long. First, he is adopted into a group of children living on the streets. Ivan and the other children spend their days begging for money, stealing food and trying to avoid both the militsiya (the police) and the gangs of Crow Boys. One day, though, Ivan stumbles into a small hollow behind a building and is surrounded by a pack of wild dogs. Through careful action (and a lot of food), Ivan slowly integrates into the pack and begins to live solely with the dogs. For the next two years, Ivan and his pack move to a number of different places, and finally to the woods outside of Moscow, continuously avoiding danger and capture. It is there that Ivan must confront who and what he really is.
The Dogs of Winter is an incredibly engaging and engrossing book. The fact that it is based on a true story only heightens the appeal of the writing. Pyron, a former librarian and author of two previous books, including A Dog's Way Home, is able to give incredible insight into the mind of a young child, communicating the character and emotions of both boy and dog without coming across as silly or trying too hard. Readers are left continuously on edge with fear and excitement as Ivan and his pack escape detection and do their best to survive with no one’s help but their own. Perfect for fans of animal, adventure or survival stories, The Dogs of Winter will pull young readers in from the first chapter and leave them fully absorbed in Ivan’s unique life.