Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Three Dog Winter
Elizabeth Van Steenwyk
1987, Bantam Doubleday Dell

Scott McClure reluctantly moves to Montana with his mom and new stepdad. After his dad's long illness, only his lead sled dog, Kaylah, is left of the team father and son used to train. Scott schemes to restart his racing, struggles to get along with new stepbrother Brad, and copes with a new school. A series of setbacks complicate all three situations, particularly when the miserably unhappy Brad runs away.

Scott glanced up at the low-lying range crouching on the horizon. Its look was totally different from the Sierra peaks at home. Rather than being pointed and ragged edged, these mountains looked as if they'd been shaped with a spoon, maybe a giant ice cream scoop.

A bare-bones style aptly communicates the very basic thoughts of a 12-year-old boy but isn't particularly inviting and doesn't really expand the book much beyond the immediate problems Scott faces in each scene. For a book very much about dogs, the four canines are seen only dimly. Kaylah, a Malamute who is male, has a feminine name and is seen largely as a means to an end. The stray setter Rusty is seen most clearly; both Scott and his mother regularly speak of how fond they are of him, but that ultimately turns out to be for plot reasons as well. Brad's golden mix, Bruno, is treated largely as a convenient team member, and the champion sleddog Chinook is pure plot device.

Scott's rather self-centered. When Brad's dog is badly hurt, Scott's upset but quickly focuses on how the accident has made him feel - scared to race again. When Rusty's owner appear, Scott shows no empathy for the elderly couple and their love for the dog. being preoccupied with how this ruins his plans for Rusty to be part of his dog team.

The book was turned into a movie, Kayla (1999), which appears to differ significantly from the book.

Kaylah - male black-and-white Malamute
Bruno - male retriever mix
Rusty - male brown setter mix
Chinook - male black-and-white Malamute

More books by Author
Van Steenwyk has written many books, but only a few about dogs
First Dog Fala (2008) picture book

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