Dobry tells the story of a boy named Dobry growing up in a mountain village of Bulgaria. His father was killed in a war and he was raised by his mother and grandfather. His best friend is the shoemaker's daughter, Neda, whose mother has died. The book describes the work in various seasons and the weather of the area and how their lives revolve around this.
Their life and work in weather and season did not, however, seem in conflict. It was more like the peasants and their environment were part of each other, not working against each other. There was almost no conflict in the book. "Conflict: The conflict in a work of fiction is the issue to be resolved in the story. It usually occurs between two characters, the protagonist and the antagonist or between the protagonist and society or the protagonist and himself or herself."
(http://www.gale.cengage.com/free_resources/glossary/glossary_bc.htm#c) I really enjoy conflict in books. It makes you think more, to try and figure out what you would do if faced with the same dilemma. I am finding many of these early Newbery winners to be nearly conflict free. Dobry discovers, on page 81 nearly half way through the book, that he loves to draw. His mother thinks he should be more peasant-like and want to work the fields like his father and father before him. But this theme is not expanded on. Dobry and his mom never talk about it. His grandfather encourages his art and tries to help his mom understand him, and in the end, his sheer talent wins over his mother.
Many interesting traditions and customs are described. Some of the ones I liked best were the Christmas and New Year traditions. I also liked the coming of gypsies to the village and the festivities involved with that. The gypsies would bring a bear that would give "massages"--walk up and down the backs of the men in the village. It sounded wonderful.
Not my favorite Newbery. When he was younger, Dobry was a bit on the annoying side. When he was older, I kept wondering, "When is he going to kiss Neda?"
Shannon, Monica. Dobry. Viking Press, 1934.