Books, Gardens, Dogs
The Dogs of Winter - Bobbie Pyron MY THOUGHTSABSOLUTELY LOVED ITIvan's mother has disappeared and her boyfriend is taking him to an orphanage when he escapes rather than be thrown into such a desolate place. As a five year old boy, he is among many of Russia's children that have fallen through the cracks where social safety nets are no longer existent because of the downfall of communism. With no systems or limited funds in place, these children form gangs and substitute families where abuse runs rampant between the older and younger kids as well as the police. These children steal and beg to survive. Even though Ivan is extremely young, he is wise beyond his years and soon figures out that these older kids are being mean to him. He sleeps under a bench in the subway right over a heat vent during the horrible winter. When he awakens and a dog is right next to him, he finds a new and constant friend. Forced to beg for the older kids, he hides money and buys food for the dog. He now has a fast friend and when he is beaten, Ivan decides to throw his lot in with the dogs instead of the abusive humans. Safe in their den, the dogs treat him as a welcome member of their pack. The family of dogs treat him better than any human has recently treated him. The story follow Ivan for a year in his life with the dogs, foraging for food, roaming the train system and finding new places to live and survive. Ivan is a plucky hero, full of wit beyond his years and he really captured my heart. I was in tears at times at the abuse he endures and was shocked when I came to the end and the afterword described that this was based on a true story. Pyron has done a spectacular job at documenting the bond between a boy and dogs as well as brought to life some horrifying facts about the poor in Russia. Although, this is written for children, adults would be wise to read it as well.

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