Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam

Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam
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Release Date
February 06, 2007
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A German shepherd trained to sniff out bombs, traps, and the enemy. The fate of entire platoons rests on her keen sense of smell. She's a Big Deal, and she likes it that way. Sometimes Cracker remembers when she was younger, and her previous owner would feed her hot dogs and let her sleep in his bed. That was nice, too.

Rick Hanski is headed to Vietnam. There, he's going to whip the world and prove to his family and his sergeant -- and everyone else who didn't think he was cut out for war -- wrong. But sometimes Rick can't help but wonder that maybe everyone else is right. Maybe he should have just stayed at home and worked in his dad's hardware store.

When Cracker is paired with Rick, she isn't so sure about this new owner. He's going to have to prove himself to her before she's going to prove herself to him. They need to be friends before they can be a team, and they have to be a team if they want to get home alive.

Told in part through the uncanny point of view of a German shepherd, Cracker! is an action-packed glimpse into the Vietnam War as seen through the eyes of a dog and her handler. It's an utterly unique powerhouse of a book by the Newbery Medal-winning author of Kira-Kira.

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Young Readers Will Enjoy This History Lesson
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Reader reviewed by Mari Rydings

YA readers who love animals and enjoy a story with adventure, humor, and a happy ending will enjoy Cynthia Kadohatas novel, Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam. Cracker is a German shepherd dog whose life begins similar to any other dogs life. His owner, a young boy named Willie, loves him whole-heartedly. Willie plays games with Cracker, lets the dog sleep in his bed, and feeds him wieners and other treats. What more could a dog ask for? But when Willies family moves to a new apartment that doesnt allow dogs, Willie must give Cracker to a new owner: the United States Army.


Enter Rick Hanski, a young man with something to prove. Determined to do something more with his life than work in his familys hardware store, Rick enlists in the Army and finds himself headed to Vietnam as a dog handler. When Rick and Cracker are teamed together, the relationship is less than successful as man and dog try to find common ground and a way to trust each other. But over time, the pair forges a bond that proves stronger than the war they are trying to survive.


Kadohata tells the story, in part, through Crackers point of view. For the first few chapters, Kadohata didnt seem comfortable in Crackers voice. The scenes told from the dogs perspective were awkward and distracting to the point that I almost stopped reading the book. But I thought about how much I enjoyed the authors earlier YA novel, Kira, Kira, and I decided to give Cracker another chance. I was so glad I did. As the story progressed, Crackers character began to blend into the story, and I found myself unable to put the book down.

Kadohatas writes about the Vietnam War with details that are appropriate to her target audience. The story includes scenes of moderate violence and death, and touches on the anti-war sentiment Vietnam vets experienced when they returned home from the war. The fast-paced plot and engaging characters make this a must-read book for young adults interested in war history, amazing animals, and stories of survival.
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