Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2007
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
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2007
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. Rick is warned that he is never to take his eyes off his dog in the field, and Cracker must learn to separate a variety of alien smells in order to determine real threats. They do not work in complete isolation; instead, they develop close relationships with several other handlers and their dogs. But it is the unique bond shared between Rick and Cracker that rises above all else. Their attachment forms from complete respect, admiration, love and trust in each other.

Cracker earns the respect of all who meet her, as she truly becomes a hero and "The Best Dog in Vietnam." Due to the subject matter, CRACKER! is an incredibly intense and emotionally challenging book. Those who share a close relationship with a dog or two will struggle at times, but will admire and applaud the spirit and intelligence of this amazing animal. I live with two gifted and affectionate Labradors (also used as war dogs) and found myself snuggling a little more closely with them while reading. My apologies to Kadohata, but shortly after beginning the book, I absolutely had to flip to the last page before resuming the story.

In December 2005 I read John Grogan's MARLEY & ME, never putting it down once started. And in February 2007 the same thing happened with CRACKER! I applaud the spirits of both dogs and the skill with which the authors have depicted them.

--- Reviewed by Patsy Side
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2008
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
on December 18, 2007
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2007
Topic aside, this is a good story that would appeal to many kids. Its an animal story- and its an adventure story. Its not the fastest read, but it carries itself forward well, unlike "Kira Kira" which got a little bogged down in places. True to Kadohata's style, its realistic, but the violence is not gratuitous--and its appropriate for the readership age.

When I heard about the plot of this story before it was published, I wasn't sure it would fly, but was glad I checked it out. Its a great picture of some of the different sides to the Vietnam War without being too preachy. Unlike some other books written about war where the author's story has a definite pro- or anti- war leaning (The latest I've read was "The Silver Donkey" by Sonya Harnet--which was good, but without a doubt, very "anti") Kadohata leaves room for the reader to ask their own questions. I think its got just the right camera angle for a middle grade reader and I'm sure teachers and educators will appreciate it for the springboard to discussions it will provide.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2008
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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Cracker is an extremely intelligent German Shepherd. Reluctantly given to the army by a boy who could no longer keep her, Cracker ends up at Fort Benning, Georgia awaiting a handler. Feeling betrayed, Cracker is

in no mood to transfer her loyalties, which are mighty, to young Rick Hanski to whom she is assigned.Both are being trained to serve together in Viet Nam where Cracker is supposed to sniff out all the dangerous traps of the enemy. As Rick begins to win Cracker's respect, dog and man become a talented team. Rick, who is eager to serve in Viet Nam, is taken aback to learn that Cracker will never return from Viet Nam, no matter how bravely she serves. "The military considers the dogs equipment, and equipment is expendable."

Told in alternating voices, one of whom is Cracker's and one of whom is Rick's, the author has an uncanny ability to make the reader think and feel like a dog. As both characters struggle with a dangerous, chaotic

environment, this well-researched story , which pulls no punches about the horrors of war, is a smashing page-turner. There can be no happy ending for the valiant Cracker -- according to the rules of the U.S. Army.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2007
I read Cracker!This book is by Cynthia Kadohata. This is a

very good novel that explains the dog's thoughts about the world in Vietnam War time.

This book is juvenile fiction.

Cracker is about a German Sheppard that lives with a boy named Willie. Unexpectedly,

Willie's father loses his job and has to move and rent a house where pets aren't allowed

Willie is forced to give Cracker away and finds out that the Army is looking for German

Shepherds to locate bombs in Vietnam. Cracker gets paired with a handler named Rick

Lanski. Rick has never had a dog and has no experience with dogs. Cracker and Rick's

relationship starts out bumpy and then Cracker becomes the one of the best dogs in

Vietnam (well Rick thinks she is). One day Rick gets injured with a piece of shrapnel

in his leg. Rick didn't know that Cracker went right and he went left, they had gone in

different directions and were separated.

Cracker intended for the average 10 to 12 year old but adults will enjoy it

too. This book's vocabulary is perfect for the average middle school

student. This book is very good!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2011
I stopped by Barnes and Nobles a few weeks ago and while cutting through the teen section, the title of a book caught my eye, "Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam."

Since I am a former military dog handler and that happened to be the job that I did while in Vietnam, I was interested and decided to purchase the book.

It is very obvious to someone who has performed a job whether or not the person telling the story fully understands the intimate details of a task being performed, especially something so filled with minutia as that of being a detection dog handler. It is obvious that Cynthia did her homework and research with great enthusiasm. After reading the book I found out she contacted several Vietnam War combat dog handlers for first hand technical advice.

The book takes you from the dog's perspective as well as the handlers throughout the story providing a very interesting point of view from the varied situations.

You have the opportunity to see from the dog's point of view as it transitions from civilian to military life, which I found a major plus for the telling of Crackers' story.

This story is one of combat and while it wasn't minimized, it was told in such a way that it was emotionally intense while avoiding extreme sensory shock and violence.

I am certainly glad she did not gloss over the tragedy of the ultimate end of the military working dogs that were sent to Vietnam; however she provided a method to lessen the blow, that I personally found as a blessing.

Bravo Cynthia an excellent tool to educate the public about the military working dog, especially our youth and as a Vietnam dog handler, I thank you for that.

By the way, with all the news of late regarding the dog that accompanied the seal team that took out Osama bin Laden, there is a special forces operation that Cracker is involved in, excellent!
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