Monday, March 2, 2020

DOG DRIVEN by Terry Lynn Johnson

I’m always drawn to stories about outdoor adventures and this is a great one with a female main character! Bonus points that it’s also a story about dogs and takes place in Northern Ontario.

Description from the publisher:

McKenna Barney is trying to hide her worsening eyesight and has been isolating herself for the last year. But at the request of her little sister, she signs up for a commemorative mail run race in the Canadian wilderness—a race she doesn’t know if she can even see to run.

Winning would mean getting her disease—and her sister’s—national media coverage, but it would also pit McKenna and her team of eight sled dogs against racers from across the globe for three days of shifting lake ice, sudden owl attacks, snow squalls, and bitterly cold nights.

 A page-turning adventure about living with disability and surviving the wilderness, Dog Driven is the story of one girl’s self-determination and the courage it takes to trust in others.

Dog Driven by Terry Lynn Johnson Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2019.

Why you want to read this book...
It’s a fast-paced read with a strong main character that has to make challenging choices. I learned a lot about Stargardt disease, as well as dog sledding, but mainly I  was in it for the exciting adventure of the dog sled race. I loved how McKenna fought through her deteriorating vision, snow and ice for her sister, her dogs and her friends. And she ended up learning something about herself, too.


Whoever’s behind me is coming fast.
I peek over my shoulder and see a blurry line of shapes bearing down. Mustard glances back too, then faces forward and digs in.

If you’re a writer…

You might be interested in how the author weaves in the backstory about Stargardt disease and the details of the medical issues without dragging the pace and taking away from the action. It was interesting how she created fully rounded characters and showed their different reactions to the challenges of the disease and the dog sled race.

If you’re an educator…

This is a great book to have on hand for kids who enjoy wilderness survival stories like Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, but with a more modern take. For more stories about sled dogs, try Terry Lynn Johnson's Ice Dogs (see my review here).

If you’re looking for another great list of middle grade books to read, check out Marvelous Middle Grade Monday on Greg Pattridge's blog.


  1. This one sounds like a winner in my book {please pardon the pun}, Andrea. The action, adventure, physical challenges, and Canadian wilderness sound like a winning combination to me. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention on MMGM!

  2. I am so pleased to read your review! I loved this exciting adventure. And, we had similar thoughts about McKenna pursuing the race. My reviews post to FB and Twitter and I had someone really upset that McKenna put her dogs and other racers in danger and wrote a lenthy comment. I understood his concern, but he hadn't read the book to really understand how much McKenna loved, cared for and understood her team. This truly is a story about overcomming challenges. Excellent review! I hope others grab a copy!

  3. I read this one recently and didn't want to put it down. So many great themes and the dogs were wonderful in their work and devotion. I hope there are more survival type stories to come from this author.

  4. Sounds like a great adventure story. Given how much you and Greg enjoyed it, I'll have to see if my library has it.

  5. I really liked this book too. I have liked everything I have read by this author. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


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