DiscoverMiddle Grade

Mishka

By Mike Maroney

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An inspiring tale of hope, courage and fellowship, featuring an old war hero, his clever granddaughter, and one exceptional "puppy"

Synopsis

Natasha is staying with her grandfather in Horridgrad - a town full of criminals and corrupt officials, ruled by Ivan the Horrid.

To cheer her up, her grandfather buys her a snow white puppy. She calls him Mishka. Mishka grows to be big and brave. He foils a post office robbery and saves some children from drowning.

Soon he is helping scare all the thugs from the streets. Everyone feels safer with Mishka around. But Ivan is not about to let the ‘Big Dog’ ruin his racket. When he discovers Mishka’s secret he plots to use it to get rid of him for good.

"Save Mishka!"


Mishka (the book) is like a warm cup of tea on a especially cold winter day. It has all the trappings of a perfect middle-grade fiction, written in a language that charms, excites, and comes alive in its simplicity, featuring an entire community of people—young and old—who all have a thing or two to learn about hope, bravery and the true power of teamwork from the guileless new girl in town and her adorable "little puppy" who isn't really quite a puppy...


I breezed through this book, having all sorts of warm and pleasant feelings for all of its small and big victories. A few spots could use some minor spellcheck, but overall the story reads smoothly and flows at a decent pace, letting each scene just play out uninterrupted with every well-placed word, humor, and payoff.


I adored its good characters and got too busy laughing at the quirkiness of its evil doers to really loathe anyone (that vegan hitman cracked me up!). And don't even get me started on Mishka (the character)—


Mishka, the overgrown puppy who loves cakes and only wants to play, but always ends up getting misunderstood by the cowardly thugs he "rough-and-tumbles" with.


Mishka who grows too huge for Natasha's bed, but never too big for anybody's heart.


Mishka who endears himself to the people of Horridgrad, without much effort other than being his sweet and instinctively playful self, and who eventually rouses the town, especially its little children, to take a stand and aspire for great change.


Don't get me wrong, though. The villains of this book may not be threatening in their often hilarious dumbness, but the power they have over Horridgrad and the things they have done and can still do, has effectively kept me worrying—almost in a panic—that something may still turn out horribly wrong for everyone I have come to care about. But maybe that's just me no longer trusting in the conventional "happily-ever-afters."


What I did not doubt, though, is this book delivering a satisfying end, which is exactly what it did for me. ♥

Reviewed by

When I review books, I focus more on how it made me feel as a reader. I rely more on my emotions and appreciate stories that engage me, pull at my heartstrings, rile up my nerves, tickle my funny bone and/or mess my head up with questions and issues that speak to my soul.

Synopsis

Natasha is staying with her grandfather in Horridgrad - a town full of criminals and corrupt officials, ruled by Ivan the Horrid.

To cheer her up, her grandfather buys her a snow white puppy. She calls him Mishka. Mishka grows to be big and brave. He foils a post office robbery and saves some children from drowning.

Soon he is helping scare all the thugs from the streets. Everyone feels safer with Mishka around. But Ivan is not about to let the ‘Big Dog’ ruin his racket. When he discovers Mishka’s secret he plots to use it to get rid of him for good.

New starts

It was 6am on Saturday morning and already the sun shone brightly in the sky. June in the Russian north was as warm as December was cold.

Natasha started to comb her long brown hair. The summer holidays had started and weeks of free time stretched ahead of her, but she was not happy. She lived in a small village and the entire school fitted into one class. While the older kids had gone to summer camp, Natasha had kicked up a big fuss and refused to go.

There was only a little gang of infants left. Natasha thought they were sweet but her heart sank at the thought of a whole summer being the big sister to them. She remembered last year, it had been weeks and weeks of mud pies and drying their tears after they had poked at the wrong insect nests.

I wish I could have an adventure, thought Natasha, but nothing exciting ever happens.

The letterbox clattered and her dad ran down the stairs. There was a pause and then he burst into the room, waving a letter.

‘Wonderful news!’ Dad cried, he looked happier than he had done in ages, ‘a job, and a good one.’

A happy tingle flared in Natasha. Her dad used to work as an engineer, but he had not had a proper job in a long time. She could almost see the strain lift from him. Although he hadn’t told her, Natasha had realised money had been running out; it was why she had pretended she didn’t want to go to camp. But that had changed. It was like a day when the sun shone and nothing could go wrong.

‘Natasha,’ said Dad. ‘It’s a six-month contract repairing machines on an oilfield. I’ve talked to Deda and you’ll stay with him.’

A great dark cloud flew across her mind. Natasha tried not to let her dad see how sad this news made her. Her grandfather was lovely but staying with him would mean living in Horridgrad for six months! Horridgrad was a medium-sized town, but compared to her little village, it was big and scary.

‘Can’t I stay here? I can take care of myself.’

‘Natasha, you’re nine.’ Her father shook his head.

Natasha thought about asking why Grandfather couldn’t come and look after her in their house, but she knew her grandfather would never leave Horridgrad, no matter how bad it got.


The days passed too quickly for Natasha and soon it was time to go. One evening her dad packed her bags and loaded them into the boot of their little car and they set off. As they drove away, she looked back at their old house and gave a small sigh.

I’m on a big adventure; it’ll be fun, she told herself and tried hard to believe it. But she felt small, and not a bit adventurous.

After an hour, the open fields were replaced by buildings. They drove past unhappy factories that fell apart. On the street corners, shadowy groups of people stood around fires, huge shadows danced on the blood-red walls. Sirens wailed as police cars darted urgently through the gloom.

The dark streets with boarded-up shops made her mouth a little dry and she locked her door and sank a little deeper into her seat. She closed her eyes and tried to think happy thoughts.

It was late when they arrived at Grandfather’s block of flats and Dad carried a sleeping Natasha inside.

About the author

Mike Maroney started off as a low budget filmmaker, but after trying to make a 50 million dollar action film on a zero budget realised storytelling on paper was cheaper. view profile

Published on July 30, 2019

Published by

30000 words

Genre: Middle Grade

Reviewed by

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