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Grade 5–8—Bred as a show dog, Magnificent Dawn of Venus von Braun was a German shepherd destined for greatness until a broken leg took her out of contention and into the arms of a boy named Willie. Reminded of the landlord's no-pet policy, the heartbroken boy answers a newspaper ad and Venus, now "Cracker," is accepted into a military canine unit to help soldiers sniff out booby traps in Vietnam. She and her handler, Rick Hanski, quickly bond and head to the front lines. Cracker and Rick's successful missions lead to more dangerous operations and they are ultimately separated during a siege. Critically wounded, Rick is sent home, not knowing what has become of Cracker, and it is a heart-wrenching wait for word on her whereabouts. Kadohata shifts point of view from Willie to Cracker and Rick. While the dog's thoughts and feelings supply the crucial visceral elements associated with her job and her relationship to Willie and Rick, she competes with Rick for top billing as main character. Willie is the story's casualty, as he realizes that Cracker now belongs to Rick. Divided reader empathy aside, the story is filled with action and accurately re-creates the experience of the military canine program, from aspects of training to the battlefield. It's likely to spark readers' interest in this little-known area of military history.—Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY
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*Starred Review* The author of Kira-Kira (2004) andWeedflower (2006) tells a stirring, realistic story of America's war in Vietnam, using the alternating viewpoints of an army dog named Cracker and her 17-year-old handler, Rick Hanski, who enlists to "whip the world" and avoid a routine job. From their training at a base in the U.S, complete with mean sergeant and close buddies, to their stalking the enemy, the heartfelt tale explores the close bond of the scout-dog team, relating how it detects booby traps and mines, finds the enemy, rescues POWs, and returns home to a heroes' welcome. Throughout the struggle, the dog and the teenager care for one another. There's no background on the conflict ("he didn't and couldn't understand what he was doing here in Vietnam"). Rather, the focus is on how Cracker uses her senses to help the team accomplish its goals, and on her physical bond with Rick, who understands Cracker's every movement. Add this to books in the "Core List: The Vietnam War in Youth Fiction" (2006). Also give it to readers who liked Gary Paulsen's Woodsong (1990). Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
I really enjoyed reading the story, with the mix between reality and fantasy, it made it more digestible.
I will recommend this book
I liked this book a lot. It was very emotional and the author gave many details. It was very realistic and you can tell the author did her reasearch. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Diane Kelleher
If you have a boy who loves dogs, this is a great read! Set in Vietnam, it's appropriate far ages 10 or 11 and older. A new favorite author for me! I read it in one day!Published 4 months ago by Diane R Weber
It's a wonderful book...heartwarming and beautiful. I just did not know from the onset when I bought it that it was technically fiction. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Lorbeer
best book ever!good nice bae cool swell the bomb ite baeeeee on fleak niceeeeeeea coool bombbbbbb a i whatever atleast it it 20wordsPublished 4 months ago by JoeMac
Vietnam highlights the truly bad side of humans and lack of respect we give these dogs. They should never have been left behind. I did enjoy this book.Published 4 months ago by Elizabeth Barron
My four children love this book! Great mini-history lesson about Vietnam. Also, who doesn't love stories about working dogs like service animals, bomb sniffers and canine police... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Suzanne Hadley