A Wild Winter Ride

Dog-sledding with huskies

Three days. Eight dogs. 354 kilometers of ice and snow. One determined girl.

Fourteen-year-old McKenna is a musher. She has been racing dogsleds her whole her life. But something is changing – she can no longer see things that are directly in front of her. There is a spot of distortion in the centre of her vision. It is the beginning stages of a progressive genetic condition called Stargardt disease. McKenna is familiar with the signs because she’s watched her younger sister battle the disease for years.

When a new dogsled race is announced called the Great Superior Mail Run, McKenna is determined to compete despite her vision issues. Dog Driven by Terry Lynn Johnson was an unexpected delight. I certainly didn’t imagine to be taken on such a wild ride.

71DLE9fxZNLThe race begins in White River and stretches down along the shores of Lake Superior all the way to Sault Ste Marie. It follows a similar route taken by the dogsled mail run in the 1900s. During that time the only way to deliver letters to isolated communities along Lake Superior was by dogsled. The mail runners would travel for kilometers through the vast wilderness with mail bags strapped to their dogsleds. This was the only line of communication these communities had with the outside world.

I found the world of dog sledding fascinating. It’s certainly not like driving a car. It’s not a matter of right and left turns. It’s far more complicated than that. It’s not like riding a horse either. There are eight dogs with eight different personalities. Each dog has different strengths and weaknesses. It’s a musher’s job to know them all. What makes McKenna’s team function is the bond between her and her dogs. If she’s feeling anxious, the dogs will feel anxious. If she loses confidence, they will lose confidence. McKenna is in tune with each one of her dog’s needs and moods. Having low vision means that McKenna must absolutely trust in her dogs to navigate obstacles that she cannot see. It’s this trust that makes her team so formidable.

Dog Driven is a great Canadian winter read for children or adults. The entire story takes place in the beautiful wilderness of northern Ontario. Ice, snow and freezing temperatures form the backdrop and are just as important to the story as McKenna and her dogs. It’s a great book to curl up with now that winter has arrived.

— Lesley L.