Cracker! : The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata Book Talk
Title: Cracker! : The Best Dog in Vietnam
Author: Cynthia Kadohata
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Count: 308 Pages
Published: 2007 by Aladdin Paperbacks – Simon & Schuster
Age Range: Ages 10 and up
Cracker is a valuable asset to the United States Army during the Vietnam War. This German Shepard is trained to alert soldiers to the presence of traps and enemy soldiers. Her handler, Soldier Rick Hanski, is a teenage boy who is eager to make a difference. They develop their relationship as they build trust with each other with their lives on the line.
This book is an emotional roller coaster. Since this is a book targeted to a younger audience, I was expecting a cute story told from a dog’s perspective about bonding with a soldier. The story is so much deeper than I could have ever anticipated. The book is told from both Rick Hanski’s and Cracker’s perspectives, giving a more rounded out storytelling experience. The first training scenes are more humorous and lighthearted. As soon as the story shifts to the war zone, there is an appropriate shift in the tone. Author Cynthia Kadohata found a way to be honest about the reality of war without making the story traumatic to read.
I do not think it is possible to get to the end of the book with dry eyes. The relationships Kadohata develops throughout the story are beautiful and tug at your heart strings.
I think this book is a great piece of historical fiction. Even though I am double the age of the targeted audience, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. This is a book that you could read time and time again. You will smile and cry with the characters are you get attached to them. It is no wonder that this author is a Newbery Medal winner.
I am glad I finally picked up this book. My only regret is that I did not read it sooner.
Do not read ahead if you do not want any spoilers!
This book does include death, including a soldier taking his final breath in front of the main character as well as the death of a dog. The dog’s death can be very upsetting for younger or more sensitive readers, so keep tissues at the ready. The writing does handle the serious and saddening situations with a grace that makes it easier to digest.