1935: Dobry (#1 Fan of Gypsy Bears)

VERDICT: Treasure

Sally’s Rating: 3/5

In Monica Shannon’s Dobry, a young Bulgarian boy must convince his mother he wants to be an artist instead of a farmer.

Dobry is the quintessential comfort read. The story contrasts the stability of peasant life against the uncertainness of Dobry’s passion for artistry and sculpturing. Conflict is minimal, and Dobry’s innate goodness is felt through his genuine interactions with those around him.

The cast features a handful of characters. Dobry’s optimism instils the book with a lightheartedness that affects the characters around him. His playmate, Neda, joins him in his small town adventures of anxiously awaiting for the gypsy bear to come to town and creating a stork-like kite to fly high in the sky. Their relationship quietly grows from one of childhood acquaintances to best friends who have fallen in love.

The relationship between Dobry and his grandfather is what makes this book really shine. While Dobry’s actions are typically childlike in their own simplicity (such as eating a whole sackful of tomatoes and getting a stomachache), his grandfather provides a necessary depth to the novel with his wise ways. Folktales are interspersed throughout the book as the grandfather tells ancient Bulgarian stories and makes up a few of his own for good measure. The grandfather’s influential tales result in Dobry’s first stab at storytelling – the intriguing tale of how Noah forgot to bring a pair of wickerwockoffs on the ark.

Dobry was a cute, heartwarming tale that highlighted an unusual setting and captured the innocence and conflict of a boy who is divided between his mother’s desires and his own passions. The book was finely balanced – keeping one foot in the past with Bulgarian folktales while taking one step forward into the future as Dobry begins his journey to becoming an artist.

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