Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam

Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam

by Cynthia Kadohata
4.7 147

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Overview

Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata

CRACKER IS ONE OF THE UNITED STATES ARMY'S MOST VALUABLE WEAPONS:

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416906384
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 10/07/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 185,141
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile: 730L (what's this?)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Cynthia Kadohata is the author of the Newbery Medal–winning book Kira-Kira, the National Book Award winner The Thing About Luck, the Jane Addams Peace Award and Pen USA Award winner Weedflower, Cracker!, Outside Beauty, A Million Shades of Gray, Half a World Away, and several critically acclaimed adult novels, including The Floating World. She lives with her hockey-playing son and dog in West Covina, California.

Reading Group Guide

An Atheneum Guide for Reading Groups

CRACKER!: THE BEST DOG IN VIETNAM
By Cynthia Kadohata

ABOUT THE BOOK
Cracker, a prize German shepherd, once belonged to a boy named Willie, but now belongs to the U.S. military, which has trained her to sniff out bombs, traps, and the enemy. She never believes that she will find a master as loving as Willie until she meets seventeen-year-old Rick Hanski, an army private in basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia. Rick enlisted in the military knowing that he would go to Vietnam, but he never intended to go as a dog handler. To U-Haul, Rick's sergeant, Cracker and Rick are an unlikely pair, but when they get to Vietnam, they become a team and are sent on dangerous search-and-rescue missions, often in the "point" position. In one deadly battle, Rick and Cracker are separated, and Rick receives a serious wound and a ticket home. When he arrives at his parents' house in Wisconsin, he finds that he is a changed man, and the only way that he can ever be at peace with himself is to be reunited with his best friend — Cracker.
ACTIVITIES BEFORE READING
Have students look at a time line of the United States' involvement in Vietnam (http://www.pbs.org/battlefieldvietnam/timeline/index4.html). Engage them in a discussion about the difference between a conflict and a war. At what point did the Vietnam conflict become the Vietnam War?
DISCUSSION TOPICS
Willie knows that if he doesn't find someone to adopt Cracker, he will have to give her to the pound. Then he reads that the army needs dogs to go to Vietnam. Why is the pound worse for Cracker than going to war? Discuss why Cracker is especially suitable as a war dog. Cracker's name as a puppy was Magnificent Dawn of Venus. How does Cracker live up to her original name?
Rick's sister, Amy, graduated from MIT. His parents always felt that she had a "calling," but Rick, who wasn't a good student, was expected to work in the family's hardware store. Explain how Rick's jealousy of his sister's accomplishments contributes to his eventual success as a dog handler in Vietnam. Why does Rick's father agree to sign the papers for him to join the army?
Rick arrives at Fort Benning, Georgia, for basic training with an attitude — he wants to "whip the world." What is the toughest lesson Rick learns in basic training? Discuss why Rick is written up for "lack of tact and diplomacy." What does Cracker teach Rick about diplomacy?
The military sees the war dogs as specialized equipment. How are the dogs trained? Discuss the difference between a scout dog and a tracker. Why is the military only interested in scout dogs?
In the beginning, it is doubtful that Cracker is going to make it through training. Why is Rick upset with the army for assigning him to Cracker? At what point does Rick realize that Cracker is indeed going to become "the best dog in Vietnam"? Willie use to feel invincible when he was walking with Cracker. How does Cracker make Rick feel invincible?
Rick is disappointed that he doesn't win a trophy at the end of dog training. Discuss how winning isn't always about getting trophies. How does Rick win in the end? What is Rick's ultimate trophy?
Rick's parents taught him about fairness. How does basic training teach him about politics? Discuss how Rick uses politics to get Cracker returned to the United States.
Explain what the sergeant means when he says, "There are (Viet Cong) everywhere and nowhere." (p. 113) Why does this make the Vietnam War an especially difficult one to fight? Discuss Rick's thoughts the first time he and Cracker are taken into a "hot zone." How do he and Cracker become "dog and man — one creature"?
Rick is a little nervous when he and Cracker are sent on a secret mission. Discuss what Camel means when he says, "I wouldn't want to go with anyone who wasn't." (p. 178) Rick and Cracker are assigned the "point" position. Discuss how this is an especially dangerous position. How does "walking point" give Rick a sense of importance?
Rick sees courage, but he also feels it. What might he say is the most courageous act that he witnessed? Debate whether these acts of courage change his desire to "whip the world."
What happens if Rick doesn't read Cracker correctly? He says that a misread would make him feel guilty for the rest of his life. Discuss the relationship between responsibility and guilt. Describe Rick's feelings of guilt when Cracker is lost. Why does Rick feel that he owes it to Cracker to wear his uniform when he goes to pick her up in Chicago?
Compare and contrast Cracker's relationship with Willie and Rick. Discuss why it would have been difficult for Cracker to become Willie's dog again. What makes Rick invite Willie to Cracker's homecoming?
After basic training, Rick goes home for a visit before he deploys to Vietnam. Discuss why he doesn't feel comfortable in his old room. When Rick returns from the war, he knows that he doesn't belong in his parents' house. How is this symbolic of his journey to manhood?
RESEARCH AND ACTIVITIES
Ask students to read "Seeking to honor America's four-footed soldiers" by Lisa Hoffman (www.vdhaonline.org/Honor.aspx). Then have them write a brief essay called "Dogs as Soldiers."
Stars and Stripes, the daily newspaper for the U.S. military, features news of interest to troops stationed all over the world. Write a feature story that might have appeared in Stars and Stripes about Cracker and Rick's reunion. Include background information such as their training at Fort Benning, and their missions in Vietnam.
Malaria is one of the infectious diseases that threatened the U.S. troops in Vietnam. Refer students to the Center for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov/malaria/faq.htm) for information about the cause and prevention of malaria, and how the disease is treated. Make a brochure that might have been given to the troops that answers some of their questions about the disease.
Willie's favorite cousin, Derrick, was drafted, but Rick Hanski volunteered for the military. Find out about the Military Draft. When was it started? What was the purpose? When did the government abolish the draft? Look at the various Draft Board Classifications (www.landscaper.net/draft.htm). What is significant about the draft lottery that occurred on December 1, 1969? Why is it likely that Rick would have eventually been drafted?
Willie's father supported the Vietnam War, but his mother didn't. Research the reasons why so many Americans disapproved of the war. Pick one point of view, and write an editorial that might have appeared in a major U.S. city newspaper on April 30, 1975, the day the last American soldiers left Vietnam.
Take a virtual field trip of the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, Georgia (www.infantry.army.mil/museum.htm). Take notice of the exhibits that deal specifically with the Vietnam War. Write a letter that Rick might write to the commanding general of Fort Benning asking that a special exhibit be created to honor the dogs of the Vietnam War.
Design a postcard called "Soldiers of Democracy" that might be sold in the store of the Infantry Museum at Fort Benning.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cynthia Kadohata is the author of the Newbery Award winner and New York Times bestseller Kira-Kira, her debut novel for children. She has published fiction for adults, including The Floating World, for which she was named a Whiting Fellow. Her short stories have been published in The New Yorker, Grand Street Magazine, and Ploughshares. A graduate of the University of Southern California, she has taken graduate courses in writing at the University of Pittsburgh and Columbia University. A great deal of Cynthia's writing inspiration comes from her travels across America: As a child, her family lived in Georgia and Arkansas before settling in Chicago, and as an adult, she explored the states on a Greyhound bus. She currently lives with her son in California. Weedflower, a novel about the Japanese internment camps, was published by Atheneum in 2006. Cracker is her third novel for young readers.

Introduction

An Atheneum Guide for Reading Groups

CRACKER!: THE BEST DOG IN VIETNAM

By Cynthia Kadohata

ABOUT THE BOOK

Cracker, a prize German shepherd, once belonged to a boy named Willie, but now belongs to the U.S. military, which has trained her to sniff out bombs, traps, and the enemy. She never believes that she will find a master as loving as Willie until she meets seventeen-year-old Rick Hanski, an army private in basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia. Rick enlisted in the military knowing that he would go to Vietnam, but he never intended to go as a dog handler. To U-Haul,Rick's sergeant, Cracker and Rick are an unlikely pair, but when they get to Vietnam, they become a team and are sent on dangerous search-and-rescue missions, often in the "point" position. In one deadly battle, Rick and Cracker are separated, and Rick receives a serious wound and a ticket home. When he arrives at his parents' house in Wisconsin, he finds that he is a changed man, and the only way that he can ever be at peace with himself is to be reunited with his best friend — Cracker.

ACTIVITIES BEFORE READING

Have students look at a time line of the United States' involvement in Vietnam (http://www.pbs.org/battlefieldvietnam/timeline/index4.html). Engage them in a discussion about the difference between a conflict and a war. At what point did the Vietnam conflict become the Vietnam War?

DISCUSSION TOPICS

Willie knows that if he doesn't find someone to adopt Cracker, he will have to give her to the pound. Then he reads that the army needs dogs to go to Vietnam. Why is the pound worse for Cracker than going to war? Discuss why Cracker isespecially suitable as a war dog. Cracker's name as a puppy was Magnificent Dawn of Venus. How does Cracker live up to her original name?

Rick's sister, Amy, graduated from MIT. His parents always felt that she had a "calling," but Rick, who wasn't a good student, was expected to work in the family's hardware store. Explain how Rick's jealousy of his sister's accomplishments contributes to his eventual success as a dog handler in Vietnam. Why does Rick's father agree to sign the papers for him to join the army?

Rick arrives at Fort Benning, Georgia, for basic training with an attitude — he wants to "whip the world." What is the toughest lesson Rick learns in basic training? Discuss why Rick is written up for "lack of tact and diplomacy." What does Cracker teach Rick about diplomacy?

The military sees the war dogs as specialized equipment. How are the dogs trained? Discuss the difference between a scout dog and a tracker. Why is the military only interested in scout dogs?

In the beginning, it is doubtful that Cracker is going to make it through training. Why is Rick upset with the army for assigning him to Cracker? At what point does Rick realize that Cracker is indeed going to become "the best dog in Vietnam"? Willie use to feel invincible when he was walking with Cracker. How does Cracker make Rick feel invincible?

Rick is disappointed that he doesn't win a trophy at the end of dog training. Discuss how winning isn't always about getting trophies. How does Rick win in the end? What is Rick's ultimate trophy?

Rick's parents taught him about fairness. How does basic training teach him about politics? Discuss how Rick uses politics to get Cracker returned to the United States.

Explain what the sergeant means when he says, "There are (Viet Cong) everywhere and nowhere." (p. 113) Why does this make the Vietnam War an especially difficult one to fight? Discuss Rick's thoughts the first time he and Cracker are taken into a "hot zone." How do he and Cracker become "dog and man — one creature"?

Rick is a little nervous when he and Cracker are sent on a secret mission. Discuss what Camel means when he says, "I wouldn't want to go with anyone who wasn't." (p. 178) Rick and Cracker are assigned the "point" position. Discuss how this is an especially dangerous position. How does "walking point" give Rick a sense of importance?

Rick sees courage, but he also feels it. What might he say is the most courageous act that he witnessed? Debate whether these acts of courage change his desire to "whip the world."

What happens if Rick doesn't read Cracker correctly? He says that a misread would make him feel guilty for the rest of his life. Discuss the relationship between responsibility and guilt. Describe Rick's feelings of guilt when Cracker is lost. Why does Rick feel that he owes it to Cracker to wear his uniform when he goes to pick her up in Chicago?

Compare and contrast Cracker's relationship with Willie and Rick. Discuss why it would have been difficult for Cracker to become Willie's dog again. What makes Rick invite Willie to Cracker's homecoming?

After basic training, Rick goes home for a visit before he deploys to Vietnam. Discuss why he doesn't feel comfortable in his old room. When Rick returns from the war, he knows that he doesn't belong in his parents' house. How is this symbolic of his journey to manhood?

RESEARCH AND ACTIVITIES

Ask students to read "Seeking to honor America's four-footed soldiers" by Lisa Hoffman (www.vdhaonline.org/Honor.aspx). Then have them write a brief essay called "Dogs as Soldiers."

Stars and Stripes, the daily newspaper for the U.S. military, features news of interest to troops stationed all over the world. Write a feature story that might have appeared in Stars and Stripes about Cracker and Rick's reunion. Include background information such as their training at Fort Benning, and their missions in Vietnam.

Malaria is one of the infectious diseases that threatened the U.S. troops in Vietnam. Refer students to the Center for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov/malaria/faq.htm) for information about the cause and prevention of malaria, and how the disease is treated. Make a brochure that might have been given to the troops that answers some of their questions about the disease.

Willie's favorite cousin, Derrick, was drafted, but Rick Hanski volunteered for the military. Find out about the Military Draft. When was it started? What was the purpose? When did the government abolish the draft? Look at the various Draft Board Classifications (www.landscaper.net/draft.htm). What is significant about the draft lottery that occurred on December 1, 1969? Why is it likely that Rick would have eventually been drafted?

Willie's father supported the Vietnam War, but his mother didn't. Research the reasons why so many Americans disapproved of the war. Pick one point of view, and write an editorial that might have appeared in a major U.S. city newspaper on April 30, 1975, the day the last American soldiers left Vietnam.

Take a virtual field trip of the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, Georgia (www.infantry.army.mil/museum.htm). Take notice of the exhibits that deal specifically with the Vietnam War. Write a letter that Rick might write to the commanding general of Fort Benning asking that a special exhibit be created to honor the dogs of the Vietnam War.

Design a postcard called "Soldiers of Democracy" that might be sold in the store of the Infantry Museum at Fort Benning.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cynthia Kadohata is the author of the Newbery Award winner and New York Times bestseller Kira-Kira, her debut novel for children. She has published fiction for adults, including The Floating World, for which she was named a Whiting Fellow. Her short stories have been published in The New Yorker, Grand Street Magazine, and Ploughshares. A graduate of the University of Southern California, she has taken graduate courses in writing at the University of Pittsburgh and Columbia University. A great deal of Cynthia's writing inspiration comes from her travels across America: As a child, her family lived in Georgia and Arkansas before settling in Chicago, and as an adult, she explored the states on a Greyhound bus. She currently lives with her son in California. Weedflower, a novel about the Japanese internment camps, was published by Atheneum in 2006. Cracker is her third novel for young readers.

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Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 147 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BEST BOOK I HAVE EVER READ
MightyB More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. If you love dogs, you'll love this. One minute your sad, the next your happy, and before you know it you can't put the book down. I read it and now, both my mom and grandma have read it. My mom really liked it and my grandma just started reading it, and she likes it too. It also teaches about the Vietnam war. My grandpa had a scout dog in Vietnam, I think that is what me interested in reading this book.
Stuntdude More than 1 year ago
Cracker, a report by William Hosea


Cracker was written by Cynthia Kadohata.

Cracker is about a dog named Cracker and a boy named Willie. Cracker is a German Shepherd who can tell if you're sad or happy. She also has a great sense of smell and is very smart. The first main character is Willie, a boy in school who plays with Cracker everyday before dinner. The second main character is Rick, a soldier in the Army.

The plot is about a boy who has a dog and lives in an apartment. The apartment doesn't allow any dogs so Willie gives Cracker to the Army to use in Vietnam. When Cracker is in Vietnam, she becomes a hero by saving lives. She does this by sniffing out bombs, traps, and the enemy. Her actions allowed her platoon to return safely from their patrols.

The setting of Cracker is in Chicago, and in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The theme of the story is about the relationship and trust that develops between Cracker and Rick, her handler in Vietnam. Rick and Cracker have to learn to work together as a team if they want to get out of Vietnam alive.

I love this book because I like dogs and I also like reading about the Vietnam War, so I thought this would be a great book for me. I was able to connect to the story because I have pet dogs myself, and I know what it means to trust them. When I go camping, my dog Spots helps me find the way back if I get lost in the woods. Also, last summer I read a book about the Vietnam War, so this story helped me understand what it was like to be there. Books related to Cracker that I've read are A Dogs Life by Ann Martin and Eyewitness to Vietnam by George Esper.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book is a good book because if you¿re into the war books and if you like dogs then this book is for you. The book starts with a boy and the boy is living in an apartment. He has to give up his dog to the military because they don¿t allow dogs in the apartment. In the military the dog is assigned to a man named Rick and they go to Vietnam and ¿whip the world.¿ I liked this book because it is a good story about a man and his dog in the war.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was in thrid grade when i read this book it was one of the best books i have read. This book made me sad one moment then you would be happy. I would recomend this book to anyone. This book was amazingly awesome i loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a person who hates reading but yet when finds a good book I cant stop reading i will reccomend this book to 12 and older cursing is inside of this book otherwise best book ever :-)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read it at my school library and when I started I couldent stop!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ps does anyone want to rp with me? Btw this book is really good but sad
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tye book us full of saddness but has happiness in it to Age range is 10-15
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very awesome book.lots of action
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BEST BOOK EVEE
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i didn't actually buy the book on my nook but i read it and i loved it. i liked it alot because i have a german shepard and it had details and it had to do with the army obiously. by the way there is quite a bit of dying in this book but none of the maim characters die
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I got this book in the paper version and it was by far one of the best books ever! It also has a good twist near the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is really great for dog lovers! This is probably my favorite book so far that kadohata, cynthia wrote! ;) the beginning was kinda sad and the end was happy it was sooooo good that i had to read it again. I havent read this book in a long long time.....
Brian Locke More than 1 year ago
My sister read it and said thats it was the best book she had ever read!!!! The book is mostly about a dog named cracker and the dog cracker helps fight the war in Vietnam!!! And im going to read it because my sister loves it so much!!!! Im going to read it like 10 times!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Introduction "Cracker" is about a heroic dog and her best friend in the Vietnam War. The dogs name is Cracker. She is an intelligent dog that is trained to sniff out dangerous deadly things. She makes a great addition to the army. Description and summary of main points This story takes place in Vietnam the United States Army is at war with them. I'm judging this book in how well it stays to the story, what's it based on and if it just a good book in general. I think this book stays to the topic well and meets all the criteria. Evaluation This book is based on a German shepherd that is trained to smell out bombs, traps and other stuff. The safety of everyone around this amazing dog depends on intelligence if this dog. Conclusion This was a good example why dogs are man's best friend. Also this book also shows a valiant, dedicated, and vary intelligent dog in the Vietnam War. Your final review I think this dog was a great ally to the United State's army in this book. If this dog wasn't in it so many more people would have died. This amazing dog saved many lives while it was serving our great content of America. I feel when I am reading this book that I am right there with the army. Because of this way, I feel it makes me want to read more so I can find out what happens next in the story. When I finely finished the story, I felt like I knew this fantastic dog.
johnnyappleseed More than 1 year ago
Book Review Title: Cracker! The best dog in Vietnam! Author: Cynthia Kadohata 3 Things I liked about the story: . Heart warming . The story had a lot of action. . The way Willie loves Cracker and the way Rick loves Cracker stays with you for the rest of the story. 3 Things I didn't like about the story: I loved everything. My Book Review: Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam! is an amazing heartwarming adventure that is a little sad. A young boy named Willie has a German Shepherd named Cracker. When he moves to a different apartment he has to get rid of her FAST! Cracker gets shipped to the army. She is paired with a man named Rick Hanski an American Viking. He wants to "WHIP THE WORLD"! When they get paired together they have to learn to get along or they will both get killed in Vietnam. If you love adventures, dogs, life lessons, and a bit of history you're in for a TREAT!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I got it from the library and cryed for the first chapters but very exciting!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing! My dad was in Vietnam and had a Scout Dog troop with him a few days and the details of the dog training was to the 'T'. The details of the climate, the feeling it was to be in Vietnam, everything was just perfect. She definatly did her research! It's such a great story for anyone to read! It has sorrow, happiness, humor, desperation, anxiety, everything there is! I just can't stress enough how great this book was!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book it was sad and than sometimes it is happy
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cracker is just what the book said"the best dog in veitnam"! :) I lovef this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read it at school needs a second book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cracker Rfffff!Grrrrrr! Cynthia Kadhata couldn’t make a better book for a person who loves drama, history, and a sad ending would love this book. The sounds that people are hearing are the sounds of dogs getting taking away from their owners getting ready to go to Vietnam for the war. Cracker was what the story was mainly about and her owner Willie and her trainer Rick. At the first part of the book Willie a young boy had his dog taking away so that she can go fight for the U.S Military so she can fight for them in Vietnam. When Cracker left Willie sent many letters to her handler Rick. Once Cracker got used to Rick she became a force with the army. She would sniff out bombs, search and destroy, and sniff people out. The army had a rule once the handler go hurt or killed something would happen to the dog. Rick and Cracker gained a huge relationship but one day Rick got injured badly with his leg. What will happen to Cracker? Where will she go? What will happen to Rick? Will Cracker and him grow closer or farther apart? By: John D. B
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book waa amazing i think its ages 11+.This book was great with details but it has very strong language.If you're a german shepherd lover like me this is the book for you.I'm 10years old.This is an amazing book I think you should get it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a great book. Totaly heart warming. So sad at some parts. Wish there was a sequal. I HIGHLY reccomend this book. READ IT!!!!