- Age Range: 10 and up
- Grade Level: 5 - 6
- Lexile Measure: 780L (What's this?)
- Hardcover: 208 pages
- Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (August 6, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307931749
- ISBN-13: 978-0307931740
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 38 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,095,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Lara's Gift Hardcover – August 6, 2013
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From School Library Journal
Gr 5-8–Lara Ivanova Bogdanova loves the borzoi, the dogs her father breeds on the Count's estate in imperial Russia. Training and caring for the animals alongside her father, she dreams of following him as kennel steward. Then her baby brother is born, and she is devastated when her father determines that she will marry instead. But visions regarding the dogs still come to her despite her father's demand that she stop them. She knows that Zar, the runt she saved from death despite her father's disapproval, has an important part to play in hunting the wolves that plague the estate if only her father would give him a chance. The story develops beautifully from Lara's saving Zar and moves swiftly through the conflicts between Lara and her father as well as the confrontations between Zar and the wolves. Lara bravely steps forward to fight for her dreams in an era in which women were seen as fit only to be wives and mothers, seamstresses and midwives. Birth and fight scenes are handled realistically and factually. The imagery creates a vivid sense of time and place. Compelling historical fiction, this is also a powerful story about the bond between dogs and humans, fathers and daughters. The author's note explains how the story came to be written and which minor aspects of the time and place were adapted to fit it.–Heidi Grange, Summit Elementary School, Smithfield, UTα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Lara revels in her gift for handling the elegant borzoi hunting dogs bred and trained for Russian nobility. “A peasant girl like me may never get an opportunity to lay her eyes on a borzoi and I had dozens around me,” she muses. Lara hopes to follow her father as kennel master, a decidedly nontraditional female role, until her baby brother is born, dashing Lara’s hopes and setting the stage for the battle to realize her dream. O’Brien has penned a lively tale of beloved dogs and graphic wolf-hunting escapades in a unique historical setting. Lara’s supernatural visions of dog-related calamities frighten her, but she summons enough courage to challenge her father’s decisions on hunts; test the champion hunting ability of her little wonder dog, whom she rescued from being culled at birth; and prove her worth on the grand Russian estate. Dog lovers especially will pick up this trail right away and eagerly track the appealing heroine’s adventures. Grades 5-8. --Anne OMalley
Top customer reviews
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Children will feel sorry for Lara and relate to the jealousy she feels when her brother is born. But Lara's parents are the type that every child needs and would be happy to have. I loved how Annemarie depicted a strong and loving family, teaching nobility and promise-keeping.
As a writer of young adult fiction, I found this book fascinating and well-written. (I cried a little too, which is always a good sign.) I will encourage young adults, and adults who love dogs, to read this novel. If I hadn't read this book I wouldn't know anything about the borzoi breed. This book will teach young adults about life in Russia in the early 1900's, the customs from that time, breeding dogs, and raising borzoi. They're learn about another country in another time from a girl's perspective without realizing they're being taught. And they'll have fun along the way.
Well done, Annemarie! This is rich in believable Russian culture and well-written with excellent prose.
I cheered for Lara by the end, and the book is an inspiration for young women who dream of following unexpected life paths. Grown-ups like me will also enjoy it for the settings and the chance to learn something new about the culture of another nation.
Lara has an uncanny ability to see the future of ‘her’ dogs, a problem in a land where Rasputin is feared by the people and venerated by the tsar and tsarina. Lara’s dream of taking over as kennel steward from her father one day is lost when her baby brother is born and named future steward of the borzoi.
The action mounts when Lara and her dog Zar challenge her father’s rules and prove that Lara and Zar are meant to fulfill their very special futures.
Fans of historical fiction are sure to enjoy this engrossing story of animal-human bonds, and of the struggle to make your dreams come true.
Connie Goldsmith, Children's Book Reviewer for California Kids, a Sacramento regional parenting publication