Dog Driven

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 3 Dec 2019

Member Reviews

I received an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
McKenna, age 14, has been a dog musher since she was 6 years old. Her younger sister, Emma, has lost her sight to Stargardt’s disease. Emma begs McKenna to compete in a dog sled race that honors dog sled mail delivery across Lake Superior and through the Canadian wilderness. The competitors will be carrying mail that received a special stamp. Emma wants to bring attention to Stargardt’s disease. McKenna’s competitors also have reasons for winning the race. It is a difficult race with unforgiving terrain and weather. But for McKenna, there is an added challenge – she is losing her eyesight to Stargardt’s. She is keeping it a secret from her family because she sees what Emma is going through. But McKenna has a special relationship with her dogs that gives her an advantage in mushing.
There is a fair amount of dog sledding terminology presented in this middle grade book. It is told from McKenna’s point of view and you really feel her triumphs and defeats. This fast-paced book is full of action and adventure that will have you rooting for McKenna till the end! I would recommend this book for grade 5 and up.
#DogDriven #NetGalley
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Wonderful story about a young musher named McKenna Barney, who signs up to run a "mail run" sled race to bring attention to the rare eye disease that is taking her sister's vision.  What she doesn't tell her parents is that she is experiencing early symptoms of this same disease, fearing they will not let her run the race.

Brave McKenna feels the extra challenges and sometimes peril from her disability, but soldiers on and is holding her own in the competition.  She loves and trusts her dogs, and gets to know a few of her young musher companions, although it takes her a lot of time to trust them enough to admit her weakness so that they can help each other.  She ultimately succeeds in bringing her sister the publicity she hoped for, and proved to her parents that even with the eye disease she and her sister will be ok.

This book gives great insight into the life of a musher and the close tie with their dogs.  It also is a wonderful testament to human courage and determination and to the fact that people with disabilities can be brave, independent, and successful with the love of those around them.
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I was instantly captured by the cover and ended up reading Dog Driven in one sitting.  I know hardly anything about dogsledding, other than what I've previously learned from reading Johnson's Ice Dogs and Sled Dog School.  But her stories are always an exciting read.  They so perfectly capture the atmosphere of winter, the coldness of the snow.  The thrilling feeling of leading a team of dogs in a race across the Canadian wilderness and all the hardships that a race like that entails.  

Dog mushing runs in McKenna's family, her mother used to race dogs, but now that her younger sister Emma has been diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a form of macular degeneration which leads to a progressive loss of vision, Emma's condition has become the central concern of her family.  Then a new dog sled race in Ontario is announced, The Great Superior Mail Run.  Emma is really excited about the race, she really wants McKenna to compete and carry an important message in her mailbag to help improve the awareness of Stargardt disease.  McKenna, however, is really worried.  She has a secret about her own vision that she's been hiding from her friends and family.  Competing in the race is dangerous.  But how can she turn down her kind sweet younger sister? Despite all of the initial excuses she tries to give to Emma about why she can't do it, ultimately she agrees.  Before moving forward with the race, McKenna does confide in her sister about her symptoms, and they make a pact to keep her deteriorating vision from her parents until after the race.  Neither wants their parents to question why she isn't racing or to make them worry.  Will McKenna be able to make the dangerous 200 plus miles across unfamiliar terrain?  And can she lead her dogs across safely?

 McKenna's vision has been deteriorating.  Does she have Stargardt disease like her sister?  So far no one has suspected she has any difficulties.  McKenna is really good at pretending that everything is okay, while silently she fears being found out.  Doing all of this pretending has led her to be isolated from her friends, but she still can participate in her favorite pastime, mushing.  Since Emma was diagnosed with the disease, McKenna has seen how her parents reacted to the news.  Her mother became overly anxious about Emma's diagnosis and both of her parents have been arguing about how to manage things at home.  McKenna doesn't want to add to their burden, and she really doesn't want to give up mushing.  At the same time, McKenna seems to understand that she might be putting her team of dogs at risk if she races.  

Johnson wonderfully balances the adventuring with the interspersing of information on how McKenna's visual difficulties have been affecting her at school, with her friends and in her day to day life. There are even explanations about how the diagnosis is made and real-life classroom situations that highlight the adaptive vision-enhancing equipment that can be used.    McKenna experiences her share of hardships, worries, and concerns during the race.  Early on she losses her protective eyeglasses and has a startling encounter with an owl losing her mailbag.  Yet, McKenna also takes on each of these challenges with a positive outlook and is determined to persevere and to overcome them.  During the race, McKenna does receive help from two of the other competitors and I so enjoyed the playful competitiveness that she shares with fellow musher Guy.  Although they all are in a race it's nice to see them sharing gear and helping each other out.  Most of all I loved McKenna's ingenuity and the strategy she devises to get her through the last leg of the race.   Dog Driven was an absolutely riveting story.  It makes for a wonderful wintery time read with lots of action, adventure and I highly recommend it.  

Favorite line from the E-ARC:  "I heard once that a dog's nose reveals another world beyond what humans can see."
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Great book for upper elementary/middle-grade readers!  Would appeal to students who like survival stories or those who enjoy reading about real-life diseases.  Fast-paced and a fairly quick read. The author does a great job of combining the historical letters from 1896 with present-day.
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I have read other dog sled novels by Terry Lynn Johnson before and to have the chance to read another of her stories I eagerly pushed the request button. I enjoyed the attention to the details of the story between McKenna, her dogs, her family, expectantly Emma. I have never heard of Stargardt disease until now. The mail carrier letters from the 1897 from letter carrier William to his niece Anna was a nice touch. Now this story makes me want to watch the any movie with a sled dog team. It's a very good story about realizing yourself and what you can do even if you have limited vision. There is a dog named Zesty who leads her team. She's awesome.
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This book was received as an ARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group - HMH Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.

When you find a sport and talent that can get media coverage and save your family, why not go for it. That is exactly what McKenna did when she discovered commemorative mail racing and getting a team of eight huskies. Gary Paulsen and his books have been on our reading list collection and I know due to the message this book reflects throughout, this book will sure be added to that collection and reading lists to the schools across the globe. This book was also filled with drama and conflict that put McKenna in a lot of dilemmas which made the book and ,message very deep and serious bringing to light a very important life lesson that a lot of us take for granted. We can not wait to share this book with our patrons as well as our teachers and students and I know it will be received very well.

We will consider adding this title to our JFiction collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
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Great book!  Wonderfully written, fast paced, and very suspenseful.  I think fans of survival books and Gary Paulsen books will love this.  Even picky readers will get hooked from the beginning.
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I always appreciate when children’s literature doesn’t pander to immature jokes and the writing style of a 4th grader. For some books, this works. The vast majority don’t. Then you’re left with a mess of sloppy style, obvious plot and no growth in the characters or the vocabulary of the children reading the book. 
This book tackles the struggle of living with Stargardt’s disease, one that causes  retinal blindness through mutations in this inherited disease. Our heroine lives with a sister who has it, and slowly is recognizing the symptoms in herself. In a last hurrah she agrees to run the new dog sled race and hopes that she can bring media coverage to this disease. 
Her relationship with her sister feels real, as does the trial of trying to race without letting on that your eyesight is fading. 
At the end of each chapter, there is a short letter from Wiliam, a runner from 1896 which helps to tie the historical trail and tradition of mushing with the modern setting.
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I finished this one with tears in my eyes. So many great messages in this book. I can't wait to share this book with my students!
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