Allison's Book Bag

Posts Tagged ‘Bobbie Pyron

Lucky Strike is a light-hearted tale about a boy whose fortune changes when he miraculously survives being struck by lightning. Through the use of magical realism, Bobbie Pryon also explores complex themes such as friendship, bullying, and what luck really is. While Lucky Strike might a departure from Pyron’s more serious works, it remains thought-provoking and well written.

Magical realism might seem like a contradiction. After all, the one is about impossible events and the other depicts events that could be true. Pyron manages to pull it off, by creating one character who wholeheartedly believes in luck and another character who accepts only the laws of probability and logic. Nate carries around a rabbit’s foot, wishes on birthday candles, and forever hopes for his misfortune to change. In contrast, Gen persists in calculating chance, persisting in the belief that if one tosses a coin one hundred times, the odds are one will get heads about half the time.

Pyron also successfully walks the tightrope between magic and realism, by entrenching readers in the realistic world of the sea, fishing, and turtleheads, while at the same time dipping into the improbable world of being struck by lightning, living to tell the tale, AND being blessed with a Midas Touch. On the one end, Nate and Gen spend each spring visiting the beach and protecting turtle eggs. On the other end, Nate finds himself surrounded by more friends and enemies than he knows how to handle, due to his mysterious ability to pick winning numbers and tickets.

Finally, Pyron manages to pull off a magical realism tale with a style that relies on exaggeration. Open to any page and you’re bound to find a few examples. To illustrate, page one tells us that Nate’s hound dog had been snatched up by a tornado “doghouse and all” never to be seen again. Moreover, Nate had never “in the history of his eleven years on God’s green earth” won a prize. Around the midpoint, we’re told about Nate’s visit to a carnival. He plays a game where one has to knock down four miniature clowns with a ball. After Nate successfully strikes the first three clowns, he could have sworn the fourth “tried to hide behind the other clowns”

All of the above makes for a highly entertaining and fun tale, but Pyron is also a master at creating fiction of depth. There’s a message about friendship. When Nate gains popularity for the first time, he forsakes his previous friends. As a twist on this common mistake, Pyron has Gen push herself out of her comfort zone to find others who need friends. There’s a message about bullies. Not long Nate forsakes his previous friends, he ends up having to choose between them and a gang of boys whose skills lie in taunting others. Finally, there’s a message about luck. Like a person who has won the lottery, Nate is catapulted into the center of attention after being strike by lightning. Sometimes though, fame isn’t everything one expects, wants, or needs.

With each new novel, Pryon shows herself adept at writing for different age groups and in diverse genres. I first encountered her writings in 2011 when I reviewed A Dog’s Life and The Ring as part of a virtual tour. It’s been an equal delight to read Lucky Strike, so much so that I’m already looking forward to her next book.

BobbiePyronAs part of a virtual tour for A Dog’s Way Home, I interviewed Bobbie Pyron. Now on her fourth book, Pyron’s life took many twists and turns before she become a published author.

Animals, books, and family stories have always been a huge part of Pyron’s life. Everyone in her family loved animals. They always had a dog. They also made frequent trips to the zoo. Pyron and her father used to read the newspaper comics together before she started kindergarten. As for family stories, they seemed to provide a continuity in her otherwise fragmented life.

Her childhood was pretty hard. Pyron’s father died suddenly when she was seven. As a result, all of her books seem to explore loss. Pryon grew up a shy and quiet child who worried about many things.

As an adult, Pyron attended college and obtained degrees in psychology and anthropology. For a time, she sang in a rock and roll band. Then she went back to college, earned credentials as a librarian, and has been in this field for over twenty-five years. Eventually, Pyron sat down to write her first novel and in October 2009 became a published author.

Pyron’s titles to date are: The Ring, A Dog’s Way Home, Dogs in Winter, and Lucky Strike. The last I’ll review tomorrow. Save the date: April 24!

ALLISON: Lucky Strike is about friendship. What is one of your memorable childhood friendships?

BOBBIE: I was a very shy child so most of my friends were either imaginary or dogs. My very best friend when I was young (from age 3 until I was about thirteen) was our beagle named Puck. He rarely ever left my side. I made mud pies for him, dressed him up in clothes, explored the back yard with him. Once he saved me from a rattlesnake. Once I got older—like seven and eight—I could go pretty much anywhere I wanted in our small Florida town as long as Puck was with me and I minded him!

ALLISON: Share a lucky moment of yours from growing up.

BOBBIE: I had a very difficult childhood after my father died when I was almost seven, so I don’t think I had many lucky moments. But I was sure lucky Puck saved me from that rattler!

ALLISON: In one interview, you noted that all of your books explore loss. Why? How do you feel that as a grown-up you’ve learned to deal with loss?

BOBBIE: When I was almost seven, my father was killed in a car accident. It was devastating for us! Losing a parent as a child to death is very different from losing a parent in divorce. And when it’s very sudden, it takes away your childhood. Nothing ever really feels safe again. I think, even as an adult, I still take loss of any kind very hard.

ALLISON: Lucky Strike has been described in places as magical realism, a departure from your other works. How has the process been different in writing realistic, historical, and now supernatural fiction?

BOBBIE: As a writer, I love to try new things, to challenge myself. So it was exciting fo me to play with magical realism in the book. It was a lot of fun! It really allowed me to not be so concrete and earthbound, yet at the same time, I had to keep my hand light—I didn’t want it to stray too far into real fantasy. I wanted the reader to wonder just a bit was it really the lightning strike that changed Nate or was it something more logical.

ALLISON: What inspired Lucky Strike?

BOBBIE: After my agent sold my 2012 book, The Dogs Of Winter, we talked about what I wanted to work on next. She mentioned that a lot of editors were looking for middle grade fiction with elements of magical realism. I’d just read a memoir by a woman who’d been struck by lightning several times and had lived. I started thinking about how surviving something like that could change a person and, of course, how something can happen in the blink of an eye that changes your life. I’d been eager to set a book in the area of Florida where I grew up. Seeing as how Florida is the number one lightning strike capitol of the United States, it was a natural fit!

ALLISON: Lucky Strike is your fourth book. How has life changed since the publication of your first book?

BOBBIE: Well, I signed with a wonderful agent just after my first book, The Ring, came out. That has made a huge difference on so many levels! She’s able to get my manuscripts in the hands of editors (like Arthur A. Levine) that wouldn’t look at my work otherwise. My books have also made it into some foreign markets too, especially A Dog’s Way Home. About a year and a half ago, I left the library system I’d worked in for twenty-five years so I could write full time. That’s had its pluses and minuses, but I still think of myself as a librarian who happens to write.

ALLISON: This is my second interview with you. Catch readers up on highlights from your life since we talked in 2011?

BOBBIE: Probably the two biggest “lights” was the publication of my book, The Dogs Of Winter (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books) and leaving my career as a librarian.

ALLISON: When not writing how do you spend your time?

BOBBIE: Outside, with my dogs, as much as I can! I love to hike, bike, and just wander around the woods. I also am quite involved in several animal rescue organizations in Utah.

ALLISON: What is a fun quirk about you?

BOBBIE: Like Gen in Lucky Strike, I’m a little bit OCD. When I’m at the gym and I’m doing repetitions of things (like sit-ups), I can’t end on an odd number unless it’s a multiple of five. I also can’t eat off certain colors of plates or bowls. I also have a music soundtrack constantly going in my head that I have no control over. It even plays when I’m asleep, sometimes so loud it wakes me up!

ALLISON: What’s the one question you have yet to be asked? What’s the answer?

BOBBIE: “If you weren’t an author, what would you be?” The answer: a mermaid.

Based on a true story, Dogs of Winter by Bobbie Pyron tells of five-year-old Ivan, a street kid in Russia who formed a close relationship with a pack of feral dogs. While this young adult novel is well-written and full of enough adventure to appeal to even the most reluctant reader, at about the halfway point, the heart-breaking events portrayed also became too much for me to bear. Dogs of Winter is a book I both love and hate.

The symbiotic relationship between Ivan and the dogs is touching and beautiful. One cold day a large brown and black dog presses next to Ivan as he huddles next to a steam gate in the sidewalk. Ivan holds his breath, wondering if the dog will eat him. Instead the dog simply curls up at Ivan’s feet with a sigh and closes his eyes. As the two lay there, the people hurrying past them begin to leave coins. Soon, there is enough money for Ivan to buy two hot potatoes. As Ivan eagerly eats his purchases, the dog begins to lead Ivan away from the busy streets. He leads him to a hole in the wall, where there is a starving mother and her puppies. Pryon proved herself a master of dog stories with A Dog’s Way Home and shows herself adept once again here. Ivan and the dogs give each other warmth and food, protect one another from danger, and become a family. In this regard, Dogs of Winter is an absolute must-read story for dog lovers.

Except… Dogs of Winter will also make you weep. In her historically-based book, Pyron brings to the forefront the horrible plight of homeless children, of which there are over 100 million worldwide, and that of homeless animals. When Ivan’s mother loses her job, the man she lives with hits her. And then one day she is gone. The man tries to bring Ivan to an orphanage, but instead Ivan runs away. He is rescued by a group of street kids. Only even they do not truly love him. They want to use his cuteness to bring in money and food and clothes. One day the police show up and Ivan mistakenly thinks that they’ll be kind to him. After all, his mother always taught him that police helped those who are lost. Instead the police spat in his face, tossed him over their shoulder, and otherwise abused him. When Ivan finds the pack of feral dogs, his life begins to have hope. When even this hope begins to get crushed, I started to bawl. Sad stories, especially those that are true, are hard for me to handle. In this regard, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend Dogs of Winter.

When Pyron first read Ivan’s story in an article, she immediately wanted to tell his story. Yet she also felt daunted by the task of telling this story of a homeless boy from Russia who formed a close relationship with feral dogs. She ended up having to take breaks from the writing of Dogs of Winter. About halfway through my reading of her intense tale, I had to stop and instead read books about how to change the world. Pryon considers Dogs of Winter the book she is most proud to have written. She has good reason to, in that it’s well-crafted and inspirational. However, as with Bambi and Old Yeller and other similar books, one time is probably the most I can ever read it.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

Virtual book tours are a boost for both blogger and author. Through a virtual book tour, an author gains recognition for a new book. At the same time, a blogger also receives increased traffic flow to their site. Or at least that’s been my experience since 2011, when I hosted my first virtual book tour. Since that time, I have reviewed for an assortment of tours, including several arranged by Teddy Rose of Virtual Author Book Tours.

In fact, it was the fall of 2011, when Teddy first contacted me to review a hardcover edition of A Dog’s Way Home. This is how I got introduced to Bobbie Pyron, whose career I have continued to follow. Since that fall, I’ve served as hostess to a few other tours for Teddy. The latest will happen this week and is also for yet another novel for Bobbie Pryon. Thus, I thought it fitting for my readers to know a little more about Teddy Rose herself.

Even so, this interview almost didn’t happen. After creating my schedule for April, I got caught up with other commitments and forgot until this week about my interview plans. A huge shout-out to Teddy for returning questions within two days, in time for me to post this interview with her.

Teddy Rose Wedding

Teddy Rose Wedding

ALLISON: What started your love of books?

TEDDY: When I was young, my parents were told I had dyslexia. I was put in a special education class for the first 2 years of elementary school. I remember my sister who is six years older than me, helping me to learn to read as well as my teacher. I got frustrated very easily. However, one day I just started reading, like someone flicked a light switch. Since then, there was no stopping me, I never took being able to read for granted.

I always liked to read before bed however when my mom told me it was time for lights out, I got the flashlight out and kept reading. She kept catching me but finally gave in as said, “at least turn on the light so you don’t go blind.” Perhaps that is why my eyesight is so bad. LOL!

ALLISON: Why did you get into doing virtual book tours?

TEDDY: During high school I got in the habit of writing down notes to keep track of books I have read. I have been doing that since. When blogs came around, I realized it would be a more organized way to keep and find my notes. It was purely for my own use. However, all of a sudden I started getting emails from publishers and authors asking me if I wanted books to review. I thought I died and went to heaven! I am a book addict, after all.

Then one day I received an email from a blogger friend asking me if I wanted to take part in a virtual tour. That was Trish from TLC book tours. I asked her how it worked and thought to myself that it would be fun to coordinate tours. TLC only works with traditionally published authors so I decided to open up a tour company that would work mainly with independent authors. I had read some really good indies by then!

I asked two authors I was following if I could put tours together for them for free to see how it would work out. By the end of the tours, I had two great testimonials. So then they helped me spread the word and I started getting authors coming to me. After about 6 months I realized that I was going to either have to give up my social work or the business. I thought it was all or nothing however, my employer wouldn’t let me go and we agreed I would go on contract as an consultant. So now I have the best of both worlds.

I have met some amazing authors and small presses over the years and it has been a pleasure to work with them all! By the way, I give a discount to indie and small press authors. I also have added other services over time as well.

I love what I do! I feel like by supporting authors, I am encouraging them to keep writing. Books are my drugs of choice, I feel the need to help those that help me get my “fix”.

ALLISON: Are there any books you do not accept for tours?

TEDDY: Yes, we will not accept books that have not been edited by someone other than the author. The number one reason some book bloggers won’t read indies is because of lack of editing. You really need to get a second set of eyeballs on your work. We also won’t accept any religious non-fiction/fiction. We accept each book on a case by case basis. If we think tour hosts would sign up for a tour and it meets the other criteria I mentioned, we will accept it.



ALLISON: What started your love of animals?

TEDDY: I have loved animals for as long as I can remember. I use to beg my parents for a pet but I was only allowed to have gold fish. Then after the second one died and I cried, I wasn’t allowed to even have them. My mom hates animals.

When I was 5 years old and found out that meat was from animals, I decided I wouldn’t eat meat. My parents were horrified and forced me to eat meat. When I was 10 my mom got really worried because I wasn’t gain weight like I should have been. She took me to the doctor who diagnosed me as anorexic. I told him I was not and that if I was allowed to be vegetarian, I would eat. I haven’t stopped eating since! I have been vegan for over 25 years now.

Since I graduated university, I have never lived without at least one pet. I have had wonderful cat and dog children. You can see many of them on my website: Teddy Rose Reviews Plus More. Our cat Amanda passed right before the new year so right now we just have our dog DJ, he is a Shetland sheep dog. I have volunteered in pet rescue and we will only adopt rescues.

ALLISON: Do you prefer dog/cat/bird/small pet? Why?

TEDDY: I fall in love with just about every animal I see! I don’t discriminate too much but do prefer the furry variety. My first pet was a rabbit, then cats and dogs. I’m still trying to figure out how we can get a giraffe to fit in our house. LOL! I love birds too but they just seem like their too much up keep.

ALLISON: What started your love of film?

TEDDY: I always loved movies but in my late 20’s I started hearing about foreign film and how much I was missing out on non-Hollywood film. There were very few places to see foreign film in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, where I grew up.

Then at the age of 29 I moved to Vancouver, British Columbia Canada and found out that they had theaters that played independent and foreign film. I immersed myself in it and then come fall, I found out about the ‘Vancouver International Film Festival’. I volunteered with them for 15 years. I would use my vacation to volunteer with them and then used more vacation days to attend. However, now that I mostly work for myself, I don’t have the time to volunteer and I see less during the festival. I use to see 75-90 films during the festival. Last year I saw 15.

ALLISON: Share a favorite moment from a film festival.

TEDDY: Wow, there are so many but I have to say that my favorite part has been the friends I have made through the years. When you’re waiting in line or waiting for a film to start, conversation about films start organically. Then talk of other common interests would come up. I have made some amazing friends over the years!

ALLISON: How do you juggle all your interests?

TEDDY: Well, that is the million dollar question! As far as reading goes, that’s easy. I try to get to bed by midnight and read until 2 am. That has always been my favorite time to read, when everything is at its quietest. When I am reading a book that I can’t put down, I read even longer but I try to discipline myself against that.

Since Bill and I don’t have human children we usually watch TV with dinner and subscribe to a lot of movie channels. Sometimes we will go out to movies on an evening or weekend and we like to dine out as well. Now that Vancouver is more vegan friendly, we have a lot of choices. I rarely find the time to knit anymore and I gave up quilting entirely.

We also belong to two groups that meet up for vegan meals. If you don’t know about, you don’t know what you are missing. There are groups in just about every community around the globe for various interests. I also belong to some business and social media meet up groups and have learned a lot from them!

ALLISON: Describe a favorite spot where you live in Canada.

TEDDY: The small park that Bill and I got married in. It’s not very busy compared to English Bay, Stanley Park, etc. Those are beautiful but living in a big tourist town, due to our natural beauty, those places are so crowded. The small park we got married in is a lot quieter. I just can’t feel close to nature with so many people around.

Teddy, Bill, and Peter Yarrow

Teddy, Bill, and Peter Yarrow

ALLISON: Any other interests I have not covered?

TEDDY: Bill and I also love music, especially singer/song writer types. Like Joan Baez, Peter, Paul, and Mary, The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, etc. We also like rock like U2, REM, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, etc. We go to quite a few concerts during the year but mostly smaller venues. As much as we love some of the big names, we find that stadiums strip away the sound that we love.

However, we do go to outdoor music festivals in the summer. We go to at least two per summer. This year we have trips planned to Vancouver Island for a festival there and then two weeks later we will be making the 12 hour drive to the 4 day music festival in Calgary.

TEDDY: Thanks so much for inviting me to interview. I am always so busy organizing interviews for authors and it was fun to be invited to one myself!

ALLISON: You’re welcome! I enjoyed getting to know more about you. 🙂

As I mentioned, my latest involvement with Teddy’s tours is happening this week. Over the next few days, I’ll post an interview with author Bobbie Pyron, along with two of her books including Lucky Strike. Save the dates: April 22-24!

A story about a girl boxer? The idea didn’t grab me. Why would I want to read about tough girls beating each other up? A story about a middle-class teenager who is headed down a path of self-destruction? I still felt skeptical: it’s been done before in problem fiction and after school specials. After reading The Ring by Bobbie Pyron, I changed my mind on both accounts.

Fifteen-year-old Mardie at first seems like just another teen in trouble. Then we learn that Mardie lost her mom in an accident, hasn’t adjusted well to having a stepmom, and every time Mardie messes up her dad berates that she’s just like her mom. Like many teens, Mardie also isn’t all that popular. A fact that she handles about as badly as most unpopular teens! She tries in all the wrong ways to get accepted: She dates a popular guy who is also a playboy, cuts classes with the result of failing grades, is arrested for getting drunk, and has to appear before for judge for shoplifting. By this point, you’re probably thinking Mardie is just another teen with plenty of excuses for being in trouble and so this is yet another sob story pleading with us to understand her.

Not so. Her parents turn out to be not so bad. Her so-called perfect older brother has his own secrets. And even her friends are struggling with their own issues. Mardie is simply making some stupid choices, like many of us do when growing up. Then one day her step-mom takes Mardie to the gym, where she feels jazzed to see female boxers. I’m not. My reaction is like that of her dad: Boxing is too violent. I don’t know why anyone would want to do that to themselves. When told by sparring mates that to make it as a boxer she needs to put on weight, Mardie echoes another reaction of mine: No way, I’m going to look all big and beefy. Yet Pyron wins me over with Mardie’s choice, because it becomes apparent how perfectly boxing fits Mardie’s needs. The female boxers are strong and focused, not caring what anyone else thinks. Mardie thrives when she develops this kind of respect for herself. The female boxers also don’t reject her because of her delinquency record. They have all been dealt a few nasty blows and were less than perfect in their handling of them. Mardie also thrives with this kind of peer acceptance.

Mardie learns to channel her anger into discipline. Ah-ha! I bet you thought I was going to say “channel her frustrations into a punching bag”. But no, Mardie discovers that beating up a punching bag does nothing make her knuckles sore. She also learns that fighting is not enough; even the best boxers need to know when to walk away from bullies. Turns out, it’s the workouts, the practice, and the goals that help Mardie control her anger and boost her confidence. You see, sometimes bad choices are less about not knowing the right solutions and more about believing enough in yourself to care about the right ones. Her trainer Kitty’s mantra is: “Argue for your limitations and sure enough they’re yours.” Kitty helps Mardie and the other girls realize that boxing isn’t about beating people up. Holding their own against opponents requires them to make tough and deliberate choices: They have to show up to practice, listen to their trainer, and respect their competition. They also have to figure out that there’s more to life than just winning; sometimes getting into the ring is about doing one’s best. Pyron helped me see female boxers not as tough beefy girls but as teens struggling for a positive way to find their place in life.

By the end of the book I felt pretty strong sympathy for Mardie. She starts out as a teen in trouble, but turns into a teen with enough problems to make anyone turn to self-destructive behaviors. Hence, the shoplifting and Mardie’s day in court. Yet the judge doesn’t cut her any slack. Nor do her parents. Or for that matter her friends. And so in the end Mardie has to rethink some of her choices if she wants to make something of herself. Mardie makes me want to put on some boxing gloves. She also inspires me to want to improve, improve, and improve. For all these reasons, The Ring is a pretty nifty and different book.

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

Allisons' Book Bag Logo

Thank You!

Allison’s Book Bag will no longer be updated. Thank you for eight years!

You can continue to follow me at:



Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 127 other subscribers