How would you feel if you were fourteen years old and had your dreams dashed, thanks to the birth of your brother? Lara had understood from a young age that one day she would take over the kennels from her father to breed and care for the borzoi dogs on Count Voronstov's estate. But when her mother gives birth to a son, the family's future is focused on him. Lara must hide both her dreams and her special ability to understand and connect to the dogs, especially her favorite, Ryczar.
On the eve my beloved Ryczar was born, under a bright, full moon, the north wind whistled and howled. Like a forest spirit gone mad with merriment, it ripped through the Wornozova Kennel and sprawling grounds of Count Voronstov's grand country estate. All night long, icy flakes of windswept snow drummed against the stable windows until the last pup was born at dawn.—Lara's Gift by Annemarie O'Brien (Random House / Alfred A. Knopf, 2013, p. 1)
- Setting: imperial Russia; 1910, 1914; a count's country estate
- Circumstances: Lara, a gifted dog breeder and handler is supplanted by her infant brother; she must find a way to follow her dreams, hide her gift of seeing the future, and protect the dogs from danger
- Characters: Lara, 14 years old, and her father, mother, and brother; Alexander, a friend in the stable, other residents of the estate, the dogs
- Genre: historical fiction
- Themes & plot lines: girls' traditional roles, family relationships, spiritual connection to animals, care and breeding of dogs, life in Russia 100 years ago
- Miscellaneous: impeccably researched; winner of starred reviews; author lived in Russia and has owned borzoi dogs
- Get to know the author: visit O'Brien's website, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page
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