In the mood for a happy read after a few dark ones, I picked up a new kids' book, Lara's Gift by Annemarie O'Brien. This debut novel has all the best features of a children's historical novel. Set in Imperial Russia, the story opens with Lara, young daughter of the kennel steward, assisting her father with the birth of a litter of borzoi, the famous Russian hunting dogs. The tiniest pup is the pure white so valued by the tsar. But Lara's father is planning to cull the puppy. Lara pleads until her father allows her to keep the dog and raise it. The dog, Zar, never leaves her side through the years as Lara becomes more skilled in the kennel duties. As she grows, Lara is plagued by visions which her father insists she never mention to anyone. But Lara's visions keep coming true, and some of them are warnings she can't ignore.
When Lara turns 14, her mother finally becomes pregnant again and is able to carry the child to term. Lara is assigned to care for her mother and the new baby rather than continue to work in the kennel as she hoped. Her father begins to search for a husband for Lara--even considering a man who doesn't even like dogs! Lara becomes more and more discouraged as everyone seems to want her to stay away from the dogs. Great story for any child who loves dogs. ~Tessa Eger 3.5 out of 5 stars September 2013