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Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam

Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam

4.7 147
by Cynthia Kadohata

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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



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.

Editorial Reviews

In Cracker!, Newbery Medal winner Cynthia Kadohata tells the story of a death-defying German shepherd who saved entire platoons during the Vietnam conflict. Cracker's ability to sniff out bombs and enemy troops placed her in dangerous situations that most humans never have to confront. Told from alternating perspectives of the heroic dog and her handler, this unconventional nonfiction book will appeal to a broad audience.
Publishers Weekly

Since winning a Newbery medal for her World War II book, Kira-Kira, Kadohata has ventured into the muddier world, literally and figuratively, of the Vietnam War (the "American War" to the Vietnamese). Cracker-bred as a show dog, raised as a pet and later trained as a booby-trap-sniffing military canine-is a heroic and sympathetic character. Some of the tale is told from the perspectives of her boy owner, Willie, and her partner/trainer, Rick, but the lion's share is from Cracker's vantage point. Farr narrates the piece with patience and perfect diction. Her calm tone is only broken whenever trauma rears its head, and though there is plenty of tension, overall her Cracker keeps a Zen-like innocence and calm throughout (with an occasional shout of "Wiener!" when a favorite training treat is detected). In the same way that Kadohata avoids discussing the reasons for the conflict, Farr's portrayal of Cracker successfully keeps listeners inside the world of a dog's mind, to great effect. Ages 10-up. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Gail Krause
Willie, a twelve-year-old boy, moves to an apartment building and must give up his purebred champion German shepherd, Cracker. He tries to pretend that Cracker is going on a vacation and she will return to him but deep down inside he knows he may never see her again. Cracker is taken to the army to be trained as a bomb-sniffing point dog responsible for the lives of the many soldiers who rely on her nose. Rick Hanski, a middle-class high school graduate joins the army to get out of his humdrum life in Minnesota and finds more adventure and danger than he ever expected. What he hadn't expected was to fall in love with Willie's dog, Cracker. He relied on her, trusted her, and put his life on the line for her. When he was wounded and MedEvac-ed from the field, he felt he had abandoned her. He spent days recuperating and writing letters to help find the dog. Cracker had a great memory and instinct for survival. After being separated from Rick, starving and dehydrated, on the verge of dying she believed she would find him once again and made her way across Vietnam back to the original base of deployment where she found Cody, one of Rick's friends. Cody notified Rick that Cracker was returning to the States. Rick wrote to Willie to help him greet Cracker at the airport. Willie understood that Cracker didn't belong to him anymore, but Rick said he could visit Cracker whenever he could. The story is compelling. It definitely brings an understanding of the role our soldiers and dogs played in the Vietnam War to today's children, and to adults who lived through that time, but never fully understood the conditions and dangers our soldiers faced each day.
VOYA - Walter Hogan
When Willie's family is compelled to move to a Chicago apartment where dogs are not allowed, the heartbroken eleven-year-old must give up his young German shepherd, Cracker. It is the 1960s, and the U.S. Army is looking for German shepherds and Labs to be trained for military service in Vietnam. At Fort Benning, Cracker is paired with handler trainee Rick Hanski, who enlisted in the Army straight out of high school, seeking more excitement than he expects to find in his family's hardware store in his small Minnesota hometown. Although Cracker never forgets Willie, she eventually bonds with Rick to form an effective team in an IPSD (Infantry Platoon Scout Dog) unit bound for Vietnam. There Rick and Cracker take point on dangerous jungle missions in which Cracker finds plenty of opportunities to locate deadly Viet Cong booby traps and sniff out enemy ambushes. The story is told from several points of view, human and canine. Scenes contrasting Cracker's feelings and reactions with those of the people around her are especially effective. Kadohata is best known for conveying the Japanese American experience through young female narrators in Newbery Medalist Kira-Kira (Atheneum/S & S, 2004/VOYA August 2004), and Weedflower (2006/VOYA February 2006). Here she chronicles a different sort of collision between Asian and American cultures, centering on a canine who loyally serves her handler, oblivious to the politics of the Vietnam conflict. She creates a good story for dog lovers and military buffs, including photos and factual information about the use of dogs in the Vietnam War.
KLIATT - Pat Dole
To quote the review of the audiobook in KLIATT, September 2007: Willy can no longer keep Cracker (short for Firecracker), his young German shepherd, because his family must move to an apartment. She is given to the Army to be trained as a scout dog for the Vietnam War. Rick Hanski, a 17-year-old looking for a way to escape the family hardware business and "whip the world" by enlisting, is chosen as her handler. The strong-willed, confident Cracker proves to be a challenge to Rick, who is learning the necessary battle skills along with her, but in time their bond becomes powerful. After tough basic training they are flown overseas, where Cracker has ample opportunity to prove her worth by detecting Vietcong booby traps, scenting the enemy, and protecting Rick and the soldiers following them. Exceptionally vivid writing authoritatively portrays the jungles, villages, rice paddies, weather, and the daily perils faced by the American troops. Characterization is strong throughout, especially when the author imagines Cracker's thoughts and feelings. This exciting, moving book is much more than just a great dog story. But if you love dogs, prepare to be appalled by the way the dogs were treated as disposable military property. An author's afterword is included. Reviewer: Pat Dole
School Library Journal
Gr 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 ReutterCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"But she and Rick had . . . something bigger. She wasn't sure what it was. All she knew was that when he came to her in the morning, she had no choice but to twirl around and chase her tail before sitting down in front of him." Cracker is a German shepherd, owned by the US Army, who sniffs out booby traps in Vietnam with her handler, Rick. Kadohata has deftly intertwined a classic dog story with that of a soldier's by writing from both points of view, remarkably well, though her talents with realistic voice and immediacy of setting that garnered her the Newbery Medal are put to the test here. Rick's colloquialisms are essential to his character, but sometimes fall flat on the page: "The more Rick trained, the more he started to feel that Cracker was kind of like reading his mind or something." The narrative is slow to engage, starting with Cracker's previous owner, and plenty of saccharine. There's not much information on the war, nor do Rick's internal dilemmas reach beyond the surface. Despite thin spots, the story succeeds on the strength of its characters, their struggles and their relationship, reaching a readership that doesn't get enough quality writing in this genre. (Fiction. 9-13)

Product Details

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.20(d)
730L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

Meet 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.

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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
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
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!!!!