Dog Star

Megan Shepherd. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-374-31458-3
Set in Moscow in 1957 against the internationally charged space race, Shepherd’s (The Secret Horses of Briar Hill) tautly paced historical novel portrays the friendship between a stray dog and an empathic 12-year-old, both in the orbit of the Starflyer mission to launch animals into space. Alternating chapters follow Laika, a captured street dog inducted into training as a cosmonaut on a remote-controlled spacecraft, and Nina, the presumed-white daughter of a prominent rocket scientist, who volunteers with the group under a patriotic service program. The emotionally intense narrative effectively captures Laika’s senses and viewpoint, both on the streets and in the lab, as she begins to trust other dogs, scientists, and especially Nina, who falls under suspicion after the sudden defection of her best friend’s family to America. Though some perspectives feel heavy-handed, palpably-wrought authoritarianism follows Nina, who struggles to distance herself from her former friend and to conform to social pressure, priming her for a bond with Laika. Likewise, the voice of wise higher power Dog Star, who speaks to Laika, can feel out of place, but sympathetic characters deliver a tense and compelling adventure that stays true to historical events. An author’s note offers background on the real Laika and the space race. Ages 8–12. Agent: Josh Adams, Adams Literary. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 07/14/2021
Release date: 09/14/2021
Genre: Children's
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