Fourteen-year-old McKenna Barney is a musher: a dogsled racer, and she’s gearing up for The Great Superior Mail Run; a 3-day, 354-kilometer race that takes racers from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario to White River, Ontario. The race is a tribute to the pioneer mail carriers who delivered mail along the shore of Lake Superior, and each participant is carrying a bag of mail that will receive special commemorative stamps. For McKenna’s 8-year-old sister, Emma, it’s the chance to put a spotlight on Stargardt disease, a disease that causes a loss of central vision. Emma has Stargardt’s disease, but what only Emma knows is that McKenna thinks she does, too. McKenna’s vision has started blurring, and she’s experiencing the same symptoms Emma developed at the disease’s onset. McKenna, determined to stay independent after seeing the strain Emma’s condition has put on her family, enters the race to deliver her sister’s message and because she doesn’t know if she’ll get to do this again. During the three-day race, she and her dogs are put to the test in brutal weather conditions: owl attacks; bitter cold; snow squalls, and shifting ice.
Dog Driven is SUCH good reading. McKenna emerges as a strong, smart character who you root for through the book. Her burgeoning friendship with fellow musher, Guy (pronounced “Geee”, with a hard G) provides a solid subplot to the story. Their partnership, despite being competitors, is light, fun, and vital to McKenna’s survival in the race and her determination to continue. Letters that our mushers are carrying, plus older letters from Guy’s great-great-grandfather, provide context and further investment in the race outside of the main storyline. Well-thought out characters, a strong survival in the wild story, and Terry Lynn Johnson’s incredible – and readable – knowledge of dogsled racing make this a must-read. Give this to your readers who’ve tackled I Survived and are ready for more; your Hatchet readers, and anyone who enjoys Terry Lynn Johnson other dog books and her Survival Diaries series.
Check out Terry Lynn Johnson’s author page for pictures of her sled dogs (SO CUTE), fun facts, and Survivor Diaries research.
Dog Driven has starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist.