Mishka is a beautiful story that all children will enjoy and reread. It’s set in the imaginary town of Horridgrad in Russia, where our 9-year protagonist Natasha is sent to stay with her grandfather.
There’s a heart-breaking scene at the beginning of the book where Natasha must say a temporary goodbye to her father. He’s finally gotten a job and for the sake of their family, he has to leave Natasha with her grandfather for 6 months. Thankfully, Natasha gets on well with her Deda (‘grandfather’ in Russian) and after he has a fantastic idea about how to make her feel more at home in the new city, she settles in happily.
The first thing they do is go to the local market to get Natasha a puppy. She cleverly barters with the man in the stall to get a good deal, who she decides to name Mishka (which means ‘bear’ in Russian). It’s also at this market that Natasha meets her new best friend, Alex and once Miskha gets home to Deda’s house, they wash him and feed him and see his beautiful, snow-white.
One of the first things that Natasha noticed about Horridgrad was the scary playground and the very intimidating teenagers who hang around it. We’re introduced to some of Deda’s neighbours, and we get a great sense of a community that has a lot of spirit and determination, even if it is perhaps in a bit of disrepair. We also learn about two residents of the town who are determined to cause havoc and make the residents’ lives a misery: Ivan the Horrid and the Mayor. They have some horrific plans in mind for the residents of the city’s zoo, but the head zookeeper is determined to prevent anything bad from happening to them.
In the meantime, Mishka, the fluffy white ‘puppy’, is growing at a tremendous rate. His favourite snack is cake and after a very heroic incident in a semi-frozen lake, he becomes inundated with cake from local parents.
The last third of the book is what makes the book difficult to put down and is guaranteed to inspire children who might already be gaining some awareness around politics and the role of the government. Deda and Natasha, along with Max and the other inhabitants of the city, must work together to make sure that Mishka is safe and the city suffers no longer under the rule of Ivan the Horrid and the Mayor. Any child who has ever wondered about what they can do to fight against injustice in an adult’s world will surely be delighted by the end of the story and inspired by the realisation that even small children can make big changes.
All in all, this is a memorable and sweet book that will entertain, encourage a strong sense of compassion and show children what they can do when faced with injustice. Highly recommended reading for all children aged between 7-12, and we really hope that the author writes a sequel so we can learn more about the adventures of Mishka, Deda, Natasha and Alex!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Mishka really a dog?
This is something you will have to find out yourself by reading the book! We get a lot of hints throughout the book from the author, and the cover of the book is also a good clue.
Is Mishka (the book) funny?
Yes, the book is quite funny! One of the most memorable bits of the book come when we encounter a fearsome character known only as ‘The Shadow’ who is from Ukraine (or as they call him in Germany, “‘The man who kills people for money’, as they like to be quite precise about these things”). We later find out that The Shadow is a vegan hitman who wouldn’t dream of hurting animals.
How many pages is Mishka?
The book is quite long at 291 pages, but the font size in the paperback version is large so for a fast reader, it can be read relatively quickly.