- Virginia Johnson
In Bobbie Pyron’s The Dogs of Winter, five-year-old Ivan doesn’t know where his mother went. Maybe she traveled to the City to find work. She had lost her job at the bakery, so they hadn’t had anything good to eat for a long time, and the house had no heat. The bad man who lived with them just said she was gone. Forever.
When he took Ivan to the City, he hoped he would see his mother there. But, no, the man was taking him to an orphanage. His mother would never be able to find him in an orphanage, he knew. So he ran.
Out on the streets, Ivan found a lot of children like himself who had no one to look after them except each other. Being children in a very tough place, they learned to do whatever they could to survive. But some of the things they did destroyed themselves and the other children who depended on them.
Luckily for Ivan, he and a family of dogs found each other. By running with their pack and becoming practically one of them, he was able to survive.
The Dogs of Winter is based on a true story. After the fall of the Soviet Union, a lot of social safety nets went away, and one result was that many adults and children were living on the streets. One child found a better way to get by, surrounded by furred and loving companions. Some of his story is recounted in the afterward.
Though technically marketed to young adults (the harshness of the situations would make it too much for most children), adult readers who enjoy realistic survival fiction—with dogs—should pick this one up. Similar novels include the Julie of the Wolves series, Lara’s Gift, The Call of the Wild, and Finding Zasha.