Posted in 2013-2014 Club, Not Mock Newbery

Lara’s Gift, by Annemarie O’Brien

Laras GiftSummary: In 1914 Russia, Lara is being groomed by her father to be the next kennel steward for the Count’s borzoi dogs unless her mother bears a son, but her visions, although suppressed by her father, seem to suggest she has special bond with the dogs.



6 thoughts on “Lara’s Gift, by Annemarie O’Brien

  1. This is one of my favorite books so far. I feel like the book is historically accurate and I really felt for Lara when she was replaced as kennel steward by her baby brother just because she’s a girl. I also really liked the dogs and how Lara has visions about them. This book is definitely a contender.

  2. Lara’s Gift is simply a gem that delivers a powerful story of a very special Russian girl’s devotion and love for her borzoi dogs, and her inextinguishable aspirations to follow in her father’s footsteps as the Count’s kennel steward. The actions scenes, where her borzoi are engaged in life and death combat with wolves, as well as the weaving in of Lara’s foreboding visions into the plot, were masterfully done. There are so many wonderful facets to this story, I believe almost anyone will find something enjoyable, and enlightening, within its pages. I really believe this book has the potential to become a classic.

  3. Lara’s Gift is a riveting story about a girl who never gives up on her dream, despite the obstacles that stand in her way. Lara’s struggle to prove herself worthy of breeding Borzois dogs for the czar of Russia is one of courage and determination. The scenes in this novel are memorable and stand out in my mind like masterful paintings. The hunting scene is particularly vivid and keeps the reader on the edge of her seat. The writing is both lyrical and rich in imagery. In her novel, Annemarie O’Brien does an exquisite job of capturing the landscape and setting of Russia before the revolution of 1917. I admired Lara’s courage and rooted for her throughout. I believe that this novel is both a heart-warming and uplifting read for children and adults alike.

  4. Annemarie O’Brien’s debut novel, Lara’s Gift, is simply wonderful. It is the story of a young girl yearning to follow in her dad’s footsteps as kennel steward, breeding Borzoi dogs for the Russian Czar. This was her future until her brother was born and Lara’s family announced that she would have to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a seamstress. Given the background of Russian culture that the book gives the reader, the vivid landscape scenes and the history and problems connected to Borzoi breeding, I can only imagine the amount of research it took to produce this incredible novel. I highly recommend this novel to both children and adults.

  5. This book is a totally enjoyable read from start to finish. It is about young Lara, in the days of the Russian Czar, and her lifelong dream to become kennel steward (just like her father) for the famous Russian borzoi dogs. The descriptions of their daily life and the Russian countryside are so vivid that you feel transported in time. Lara has a special “gift” and sees a great future for a borzoi pup, who is the runt of the litter. She names him Zar and much against her father’s wishes, takes Zar under her wing and trains him to be a true champion fit for the Czar of Russia. I was sad to see the story end.

  6. Lara’s Gift was a pleasure for me to pass on to my 11 and 13 year old daughters. It is a well researched work of historical fiction and an exciting and inspirational read. In a young adult literary world filled with authors willing to churn out one after another “dystopian” novels and trashy princess reads, it is encouraging to find an author who takes her time to craft an enriching tale. Without being preachy, Annemarie O’Brien explores a young girl’s unwillingness to be stereotyped by traditional gender roles. She also plunges us into Czarist Russia and the noble tradition of raising Borzoi dogs and adds a lot of excitement and intrigue along the way. I can’t wait to see more from this author.

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