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Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam Hardcover – February 6, 2007


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Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam + Ghosts in the Fog: The Untold Story of Alaska's WWII Invasion + The Boy Who Dared
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 9
  • Lexile Measure: 730L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (February 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416906371
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416906377
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #501,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*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

More About the Author

Cynthia Kadohata has lived in Chicago, Georgia, Arkansas, Michigan, Los Angeles, Boston, Pittsburgh, and New York City. She has worked as a waitress, sales clerk, typist, publicist, and secretary. She's back to Los Angeles now, probably permanently, and lives with George, her boyfriend of fifteen years; Sammy, her much-loved son; and two very funny and probably insane dogs. She has published three novels for grown-ups, and her writing has appeared in Grand Street, the Mississippi Review, The New Yorker, and Ploughshares. Her first children's novel, Kira-Kira, won the Newbery Medal in 2005. She has also published the children's books Weedflower, winner of the Pen-USA; Cracker, winner of six state awards as voted on by kids; Outside Beauty; A Million Shades of Gray; and The Thing About Luck, winner of the 2013 National Book Award. Her next novel is Half a World Away, due out September 2, 2014. Half a World Away is the tale of a troubled young boy who was adopted from Romania at age eight and whose parents are adopting a baby from Kazakhstan.

Customer Reviews

Great for dog lovers or not.
coffee2
I highly recommend it to children and adults.
OBOB Mom
I would read this book over and over again.
Eric A. Paine

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Teresa A. Wood on February 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I never read, but I love dogs and I love war storied, so when I saw this sitting at the book store, I decided the worst that could happen is it'd just sit around. I picked it up the first chance I got bored and read it, then read it again. It normally takes me 3 weeks to read a full book! This book is just so captivating and lively it's amazing! My dad was in Vietnam and he said they followed all of the details of the vocabulary, the scenery, the procedures and the team themselves to the "T". It's just an AMAZING book and I'd suggest it to kids from as young as 12 to people as old as 95!
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on January 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book tells the story of a Vietnam hero. It's not your usual run-of-the-mill war story because it's told from two points of view. A young soldier named Rick Hanski and a German shepherd he trained for the military share the spotlight as they recount their adventures from training camp to active duty in the jungles of Vietnam.

Cracker and Rick are paired together in training to sniff out bombs, booby-traps, and enemy soldiers. Neither one is too sure of the other at first, but they eventually become inseparable friends and soldiers. Rick's goal is to prove his worth and "whip the world," and Cracker is by his side throughout the experience.

Cynthia Kadohata gives the reader detailed descriptions of the dog training process, as well as a view of the dog handler/animal relationship. The scenes set in Vietnam provide a close-encounter type look that makes the reader feel part of the action.

Cracker is a book for anyone with a love and respect for the intelligence of animals and an interest in how they can interact with and serve humanity.

Reviewed by: Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky"
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on June 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
War dogs used in Vietnam were unsung heroes. Faced with intense training combined with dreadful working conditions and constant danger, they had few rewards and were often left behind to survive on their own. This incredible book, although fictional, is based on real accounts provided through interviews of Vietnam War dog handlers.

Cracker, an amazingly intelligent German Shepherd, knows more than 90 words and lives the life of royalty that she deserves. It is her birthright. She has lived with (and slept with) Willie since she was about six months old, but before she is two, her life changes traumatically. Willie's father has been laid off, and the family needs to move to an apartment --- one that doesn't allow dogs. There are few options, and, according to the shelter, Cracker probably will be put down. Unable to locate a new family or home, they come across an advertisement from the military: Uncle Sam is looking for a few good dogs. Cracker is to enlist and join the army.

Cracker mourns for Willie, certain that his young master will rescue her as she is shipped to unfriendly locations, kenneled with lots of other dogs and then given to some strange man. Cracker is paired up with Rick Hanski --- who volunteered for duty in Vietnam at the young age of 17 --- to train for locating bombs, traps and the enemy. The lives of Cracker and Rick, along with those of thousands of soldiers, will depend on the success of their training and how well they are able to work together.

Author Cynthia Kadohata carefully crafts her narrative with two alternating voices --- Rick's and Cracker's --- as she describes their bond, fears, concerns and conditions.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For a kid that has dyslexia this was a wonderful buy. He is beginning to love to read again... And this book helped.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Book Hound on January 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Cracker is a terrific story about one of the unsung heroes of the Vietnam War, namely the K9's. It's great the way the author has written from both the soldier and the dog's point of view. It's also great to see that war dogs are finally getting some attention. This book also introduces the Vietnam War to a new generation of kids. The war and the dogs that saved so many lives should never be forgotten. Anyone interested in another war dog historical fiction--this time a World War II real war dog hero should try Chips a Hometown Hero. Chips: A Hometown Hero Both of these books are great for any dog lover's collection!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By L. K. Messner on December 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I know what a gifted writer Cynthia Kadohata is, but I still wasn't expecting to fall in love with this book the way I did. I'm...er...not exactly a dog person. There are certain dogs I really like, but I don't like it when strange dogs come bounding up and jump on me during my morning run. Anyway, I thought this might be a book for dog people, but it's much more than that.

Cynthia Kadohata does a remarkable job letting us inside the minds of Rick, an angry young man who is sent off to Vietnam as a new dog handler and his dog, Cracker. When the narrative slips into Cracker's point of view, it does so seamlessly and convincingly. Not surprisingly, Rick is changed dramatically by his experiences in Vietnam and by the relationship he forges with Cracker. Cracker, too, becomes a different kind of dog - more in tune with her instincts and committed to the job she has been given.

Cracker's story is compelling and eye-opening, and this novel provides a realistic look at what went on in Vietnam while remaining appropriate for older middle grade readers. This is probably one for the 10-14 crowd, and it's not a book that's just for boys. The 7th grade girl I loaned it to this week returned it with a glowing review the next day.

Meanwhile, I'm still wiping my eyes, but in a good way. Cracker, Rick, and Cynthia Kadohata won my heart with this one - a historical novel and dog story that's not just for dog lovers and history buffs, but for all of us.
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