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Mike Maroney
Mike Maroney, author
Natasha is staying with her grandfather in Horridgrad - a town full of criminals and corrupt officials, ruled by Ivan the Horrid. To cheer her up, her grandfather buys her a snow white puppy. She calls him Mishka. Mishka grows to be big and brave. He foils a post office robbery and saves some children from drowning. Soon he is helping scare all the thugs from the streets. Everyone feels safer with Mishka around. But Ivan is not about to let the ‘Big Dog’ ruin his racket. When he discovers Mishka’s secret he plots to use it to get rid of him for good.
Plot/Idea: 10 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 10.00 out of 10


Plot: This is an inspiring, intriguing, and sweet story. The author is able to talk of more serious topics, like a mob running a town, but keeps the themes age-appropriate. The story also encourages children to be brave and shows how even young people can help make their world a better place, like when Natasha and Max help with Grandfather’s mayoral campaign.

Prose/Style: This story is easy to read and the plot flows smoothly. The author balances out more serious scenes with some light humor. The author successfully relays how English would have been spoken by Russians and this adds a cultural element to the story without taking away from the dialogue’s content.

Originality: This is a creative story about how a girl, her pet “polar bear”, her friends, and grandfather can make a town a better place.

Character Development/Execution: Natasha is a brave girl who displays some feelings that seem above her years and an understanding of adult situations. While she starts out as a scared little girl, her time and experiences at her father’s home help her to grow into a brave and happy young woman.

Date Submitted: April 03, 2021

Kirkus reviews

An inventive treat, with humour, heart, and a hint of magic.

A Russian girl adopts a very large, very unusual “puppy” in Maroney’s debut middle-grade novel. Although 9-year-old Natasha loves her grandfather, Deda, she doesn’t like having to leave her little Russian village to stay with him in the impoverished, crime-ridden town of Horridgrad while her father is away on an engineering job.

The town is a scary place, under the thumb of crime boss Ivan the Horrid and a corrupt mayor. So Natasha is delighted when Deda buys her a playful, snow-white puppy in the marketplace. She names him Mishka, and the animal grows at such an astonishing rate that some in town even wonder if he’s a dog at all. (The author’s clever hints about what Mishka is become more overt as the story progresses.)

When Mishka helps to rescue children from an icy pond, stops a robbery, and keeps Ivan’s thugs away, he makes the town’s residents feel safer, and they begin to join together to improve their community. Irate Ivan, losing his grip on the town, schemes with the flunky mayor to get rid of Mishka.

Maroney sets this delightful story in the present day, but gives it the unforced charm of an old-world folk tale, with moments of real hilarity, subtle suggestions of mystery and magic, and an inventive take on the theme of good triumphing over evil.

Along the way, the author gets in a few sly jabs at politicians; for instance, the mayor takes a course in answering questions and afterward “could answer questions all day long and never say one thing that made any sense.”

In another quirky moment, Ivan is disappointed that the hitman he hires turns out to be an animal rights activist. Natasha, Deda, and rambunctious Mishka are well-developed characters, as are several side players.

Readers' favourite 5 Star Review

Mike Maroney’s young people’s novel, Mishka, is a fun read. With a crime-fighting hero like Mishka, there are plenty of adventures: stopping a bank robbery, rescuing children who have fallen through the ice into the freezing water, and so much more.

The plot develops with ease and excitement as Natasha and her friend, Max, and Mishka, of course, unknowingly help the frightened community of Horridgrad reclaim their rights and freedoms. It’s a classic battle of good against evil and with Mishka at their side, of course, the good must be victorious.

There are plenty of humorous episodes as Mishka tackles the bad guys and this adds additional sparkle to the story. But the question remains: is Mishka really a puppy?

Reedsy Discovery 5 Star MUST READ

An inspiring tale of hope, courage and fellowship, featuring an old war hero, his clever granddaughter, and one exceptional "puppy".

Mishka (the book) is like a warm cup of tea on a especially cold winter day. It has all the trappings of a perfect middle-grade fiction, written in a language that charms, excites, and comes alive in its simplicity, featuring an entire community of people—young and old—who all have a thing or two to learn about hope, bravery and the true power of teamwork from the guileless new girl in town and her adorable "little puppy" who isn't really quite a puppy...

I breezed through this book, having all sorts of warm and pleasant feelings for all of its small and big victories. A few spots could use some minor spellcheck, but overall the story reads smoothly and flows at a decent pace, letting each scene just play out uninterrupted with every well-placed word, humor, and payoff.

I adored its good characters and got too busy laughing at the quirkiness of its evil doers to really loathe anyone (that vegan hitman cracked me up!). And don't even get me started on Mishka (the character)—Mishka, the overgrown puppy who loves cakes and only wants to play, but always ends up getting misunderstood by the cowardly thugs he "rough-and-tumbles" with. Mishka who grows too huge for Natasha's bed, but never too big for anybody's heart. Mishka who endears himself to the people of Horridgrad, without much effort other than being his sweet and instinctively playful self, and who eventually rouses the town, especially its little children, to take a stand and aspire for great change.

Don't get me wrong, though. The villains of this book may not be threatening in their often hilarious dumbness, but the power they have over Horridgrad and the things they have done and can still do, has effectively kept me worrying—almost in a panic—that something may still turn out horribly wrong for everyone I have come to care about. But maybe that's just me no longer trusting in the conventional "happily-ever-afters.

What I did not doubt, though, is this book delivering a satisfying end, which is exactly what it did for me.

The Country Bookshop

Mishka is a beautiful story that all children will enjoy and reread.

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!