A Book Guide for the Ages: Lara's Gift

Three words sum up the experience of creating a CCSS annotated book guide for the amazing novel Lara’s Gift – daring, daunting, and delightful.

Daring because the story is so well-written. The characters breathe as if they are living. The setting is so realistic, while working, I swore my fingers were frost-bitten by the Russian winter wind. Themes that I care about – family, integrity, honor, and truth – are as tightly interwoven as a horse blanket throughout the novel. All of this and those dogs! Those mesmerizing and  magical borzois! Honestly, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do the story justice. It’s a timeless tale, one that I predict will become a classic. Mark my words. You just wait and see.

Daunting because Lara’s Gift is incredibly rich with fascinating historical content with which to focus upon. Being that my guides are project-based rather than being heavily didactic, I wondered where to begin. Like a trail guide leading a band of hikers through a wooded path, I create book guides with the intention of highlighting key literary aspects and then lead the reader to interpret the issues presented in their own way. Through projects and discussion, I desired to create a book guide to match the majesty of Lara’s Gift, which is one tall order, for certain.

Delightful because we did it. That’s right. We. Author Annemarie O’Brien is the consummate professional with an incredible eye to detail and purpose. It’s no wonder Lara’s Gift is such a fantastic story. Together we created something that both of us can be proud of. I brought my decades of educational experience to the project. She brought an elevated vision of excellence which helped make the book guide better than ever!

I encourage you first to get your own copy of Lara’s Gift and then peruse through the Common Core State Standards aligned activities and lessons offered in the teacher guide. Write poetry. Complete a crossword puzzle with Russian words. Listen to the Russian bells. Make a Fabergé egg. And, fall in love with a brave young Russian girl and her beloved borzoi.

In closing, I’d like to ask you to please comment and share this post on some social media platform to win a copy of Lara’s Gift. For every share or comment, your name will be entered into the pot. Winners will be contacted via email.

 For more opportunities to win a copy of Lara’s Gift and/or a manuscript critique by Deborah Halverson from Dear Editor, check out these internet sites on these dates: Fiction Notes (7/31); Kissing the Earth, Quirk and Quill, or Simple Saturday (8/1); Coffee with a Canine, Dog Reads, or World Reads (8/5); Dear Editor (8/6); Word Spelunking (8/7); Random Acts of Reading (8/8); The Hiding Spot (8/9); and Beth Fish Reads (8/13).

 For more information about Lara’s Gift, check out:


 For a Teacher’s Guide:


 To view the Book Trailer: