In an evocatively realized post–World War II Russia, as some of the severe hardships of war are receding, 13-year-old Mikhail, his older brother, younger sister and mother are suddenly faced with a new peril when they decide to keep a beautiful female German shepherd after its owner dies. They must hide her carefully. The few dogs remaining after the brutal war have become targets for unscrupulous thieves, while anything even vaguely German is liable to be destroyed by authorities or an angry public. The nosy daughter of the local newspaper owner is relentless in her determination to discover the secret she’s certain they’re hiding. Each new threat effectively heightens the sense of danger, making this a page-turner. A parallel story—the Russian Army’s attempt to develop a uniquely Russian breed of working dog—weaves through the account of the family’s efforts to protect an innocent pet. Some of the specific atrocities of war suffered by dogs are briefly described. A highly engaging and ultimately hopeful animal story with a strong sense of time and place. (Historical fiction. 10-14)


Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-545-20632-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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Despite this shortcoming, another interesting read for horse lovers and Abby Lovitt fans.


From the Horses of Oak Valley Ranch series , Vol. 4

Smiley continues the equine adventures of Abby Lovitt (True Blue, 2011, etc.).

When Abby, now 14 and a high school freshman, takes her beloved horse True Blue to a local horse show, she's shocked by how poorly they perform over fences. A clinic immediately following, with a nationally known rider, goes no better: While he seems to like Abby's riding, he has nothing nice to say about Blue and is, in fact, so rude toward Abby's group that one girl, Sophia, gets off her horse and refuses to ride again. Period. Abby gets a chance to school Sophia's lovely horse Pie in the Sky, which helps her understand why Blue is having trouble. A completely different sort of clinic, with a "natural horseman" (à la Buck Brannaman, the inspiration for The Horse Whisperer), gets Abby, Sophia and Blue back on the road to success. Smiley's writing is, as always, nearly flawless. Her evocation of the horse world of northern California in the 1960s is pitch-perfect, and Abby remains a complex and sympathetic character. But this story carries less weight than its three predecessors. Readers will believe from the start that Abby will sort out Blue's issues, and Sophia's problems are not particularly compelling. Without a strong problem, the story lacks tension and the resolution, force.

Despite this shortcoming, another interesting read for horse lovers and Abby Lovitt fans. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86968-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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Loosely based on Noble’s own grandmother’s story, this debut hits awfully close to home in the current anti-immigrant...


In 1911 during the Mexican Revolution, a Mexican family seeking refuge from Pancho Villa, soldiers, and violence migrates to Texas.

Debut novelist Noble introduces 13-year-old Evangelina de León—a self-aware, observant, caring daughter and sister—her six siblings, parents, and abuelo, who live on a ranch located outside of Mariposa, a small, northern (fictional) Mexican town. Days after her sister’s quinceañera and the news of imminent raids and violence, the family splits up and, in waves, arrive at a relative’s home in Texas. They have not left struggle behind, however. Signs that read “No Perros! No Negros! No Mexicanos!” tell them they are shunned at grocery stores. The political and racial tensions in their new hometown are not subtle: the family is denied a burial for a stillborn son; foreign-born children must use the woods as a bathroom instead of the school’s outhouse; a black boy is shot; a Lebanese kid is harassed; a young Mexican boy is spat upon; and both white children and adults are cruel to the immigrants in the neighborhood. Using the first person with Spanish sprinkled throughout, Noble propels the novel with vivid imagery and lovely prose, successfully guiding readers behind an immigrant family’s lens. Heartbreakingly real scenarios and the family’s perseverance will allow readers to forgive slow-moving sections.

Loosely based on Noble’s own grandmother’s story, this debut hits awfully close to home in the current anti-immigrant political climate. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55885-848-0

Page Count: 202

Publisher: Piñata Books/Arté Público

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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