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Saving Zasha

Saving Zasha

4.7 40
by Randi Barrow

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In post-WWII Russia, one boy dares to save an entire race of outlawed dogs -- the German shepherd! World War II has just ended when thirteen-year-old Mikhail finds a dying man and his German shepherd, Zasha, in the woods. It's dangerous -- some say traitorous -- to own a German dog after Germany attacked Russia, so Mikhail must keep Zasha a secret to keep her alive.


In post-WWII Russia, one boy dares to save an entire race of outlawed dogs -- the German shepherd! World War II has just ended when thirteen-year-old Mikhail finds a dying man and his German shepherd, Zasha, in the woods. It's dangerous -- some say traitorous -- to own a German dog after Germany attacked Russia, so Mikhail must keep Zasha a secret to keep her alive. But Mikhail's rival, Katia, is determined to find the dog she is sure he's hiding. At the same time, a soldier named Dimitri is breeding a new Russian dog at a nearby farm. So many dogs were lost in combat, to starvation, and in the slaughter of German dogs that the country is in dire need of every kind of dog. Dimitri, too, has suspicions of Zasha's existance, and would like nothing more than to add her to his breeding program. He'll have to compete with the armed dog thieves who are also on her trail. Mikhail's inspiring journey to save his best friend, the last German shepherd in Russia, forces him to face some of life's hardest lessons about war, hate, forgiveness, hope, love, and man's best friend.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her first book for children, adult author Barrow brings readers a gentle and suspenseful story straight from the heart of a dog-lover. Just after WWII ends, 13-year-old Mikhail finds a beautiful German shepherd named Zasha and her owner, Petr, in the woods near his small Russian town. Shortly after, Petr dies and Mikhail and his family (except for his father, who has not yet returned from the war) are determined to keep the beloved dog hidden from those seeking to capture or kill the dog because of the breed's association with Germany: Katia, a nosy schoolmate and the daughter of the newspaper editor investigating Petr's death; Dimitri, a breeder who hopes to create a Russian superdog; and a pair of conniving dog thieves. Mikhail's sense of humor, concern for his family, and love of Zasha are all readily apparent in his narration, which smoothly incorporates background information for readers unfamiliar with 20th-century Russian life and history. If occasionally precious, Barrow's novel is quick reading yet weighty, and captures the prejudices and aftereffects of war. Ages 9–13. (Jan.)
From the Publisher

"In tones crafted to delight the whole family, Roger Mueller presents the tale of Zasha, a beautiful German shepherd found by two boys in post-WWII Russia. The target of thieves and potential euthanasia because of her perceived German heritage, Zasha must be hidden from all except her family. Throughout the performance, Mueller employs a light accent meant to convey a Russian dialect. This deft touch keeps the listeners’ imaginations in that eastern European culture. At the same time, he maintains an upbeat and enthusiastic attitude throughout the story, subtly assuring his audience that a happy ending will ensue. Indeed it does, and listeners of all ages will be cheering for boys and dogs to the end." 
R.L.L. - Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award - © AudioFile Portland, Maine
Children's Literature - Jody Little
Set in Russia at the end of World War II, brothers Mikhail and Nikolai stumble upon an injured man in the forest near their farm one day. With the man is the most beautiful German Shepherd Mikhail has ever seen. The boys know they must help this man, but they also understand that all things German, even dogs, are considered dangerous and unwanted. The boys are determined to protect this dog. When the dog's owner dies of his wounds, Mikhail's mother decides they must take the man into town, but they decide not tell the police about his dog, Zasha. Hiding Zasha proves to be difficult. Mikhail and his family do not anticipate thieves roaming about, or the appearance of Mikhail's classmate, Katia, who seems to be lurking about their farm, asking questions. It is only when Mikhail meets Dimitri, a former soldier, who has been assigned the task of raising and breeding dogs for a Russian "superdog" that Mikhail begins to believe that perhaps Zasha will be safe from harm. Told without any graphic images of violence, this book tells a wonderful story of a family, their love of a dog and their desire to keep the dog safe. The authors' notes at the end of the novel share some history of the breeding of the "superdog," the Black Russian Terrier. Dog lovers will thoroughly enjoy this novel and certainly be interested in learning more about the Russian "superdog" on their own. Reviewer: Jody Little
VOYA - Jen McIntosh
Mikhail is a young Russian boy living in the aftermath of World War II. His soldier father has been missing since the end of the war, food and resources are limited, and there is still a large amount of fear and distrust. The Russians are so angry at Germany that they have outlawed owning a German-breed dog and have executed any they find. When Mikhail discovers a dying man in the woods with a German shepherd, he understands the dangerous risk of adopting the dog but decides to do it anyway. He and his family must keep Zasha a secret from the government, dog thieves, and even their own neighbors, but that proves hard to do with a young nosy girl asking too many questions. There are many books about kids dealing with war and its ramifications, but this book is unique in its focus on dogs. An afterword describes the real development of the black Russian terrier as a response to the decimated dog population in Russia after the war. Unlike most dog books, Saving Zasha has a happy ending, with all loose ends tied up nicely. There is nothing particularly groundbreaking or remarkable about the writing, but it will be popular with dog lovers as well as students who need to satisfy historical fiction requirements but do not like to read traditional historical fiction. Reviewer: Jen McIntosh
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Living in Russia in 1945, 13-year-old Mikhail finds a dying man with a beautiful German shepherd in the woods near his home. During the war, Russians, hating all things German, killed this breed. But Mikhail and his family, minus his father who has not returned from the war or been heard from in several years, are determined to protect Zasha. She must be kept a secret, since many Russians feel it is traitorous to keep such an animal. But now the war is over, and the country needs dogs to perform various functions since most of them were killed in battle, thus spawning dangerous thieves who want to steal and sell them. Dimitri, a former soldier, is attempting to breed a new, improved Russian dog, and he would be very interested in acquiring a German shepherd. While this story captures the love of a boy for his dog and reflects the dark effects of war on both humans and animals, secondary character development is weak. Mikhail's mother shares platitude after platitude. The ending, with the father's return and the birth of puppies, is predictable, pat, and saccharine. An additional purchase for dog lovers and those interested in little-known facts about World War II.—Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
Kirkus Reviews

In an evocatively realized post–World War II Russia, as some of the severe hardships of war are receding, 13-year-old Mikhail, his older brother, younger sister and mother are suddenly faced with a new peril when they decide to keep a beautiful female German shepherd after its owner dies. They must hide her carefully. The few dogs remaining after the brutal war have become targets for unscrupulous thieves, while anything even vaguely German is liable to be destroyed by authorities or an angry public. The nosy daughter of the local newspaper owner is relentless in her determination to discover the secret she's certain they're hiding. Each new threat effectively heightens the sense of danger, making this a page-turner. A parallel story—the Russian Army's attempt to develop a uniquely Russian breed of working dog—weaves through the account of the family's efforts to protect an innocent pet. Some of the specific atrocities of war suffered by dogs are briefly described. A highly engaging and ultimately hopeful animal story with a strong sense of time and place.(Historical fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Sold by:
Scholastic, Inc.
Sales rank:
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

"Out of the darkness of the forest came the most beautiful German Shepherd. It was the first time I’d seen a dog in years, and never one this exquisite. I was awestruck. "

Meet the Author

Randi Barrow is an attorney and amateur historian, who has also published adult nonfiction. When dogs entered her life a dozen years ago, the effect was profound. Saving Zasha, her first children’s book, was inspired and informed by her canine friends. Now a full-time writer, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband, musician/composer Arthur Barrow, and their Chihuahua mix companion, Manuel.

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Saving Zasha [With Earbuds] 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The child's understand the difficulties to the people on war reflected in these beautiful dog
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My 6th grade students have loved reading Saving Zasha. They have asked multiple questions about WWII and about Russia during this time period. They have completed and shared independent research based on the questions raised during discussion. Most importantly I have witnessed true engagement from struggling and reticent readers. This book has sparked a potential love for reading and for how good writing can impact others. Imagine students asking "How did the author get the ideas to write this book?" Saving Zasha lends itself to multiple teaching strategies including working with students to identify the speaker of dialogue when no tag is given. Some of these students have reading disabilities so I have prepared a character reference sheet, questions for each chapter, as well as a list of multisyllabic words for decoding review then used these same words for review of base words of new vocabulary. Saving Zasha touches the hearts of many students and inspires them to deepen their understanding. Saving Zasha is a keeper. I plan to purchase the prequel and the sequel when it is published. Saving Zasha will become one of my most recommended books for my students.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book when I was about 11.. its been five years now and I still love it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My favorite books could not stop reading them. Hope author will write what happens next!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book and the first one they are amazing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book ever
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so much
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Saving Zasha is a very well-written story, with many exciting moments. However, i, and i assume most readers felt this way too, was looking a great deal forward to what happened with ivan and his friends and mother. It is unfair of the author to offer no true end to the story. Everyone likes a little clif hanger, but this left too much out! If you found Finding Zasha ennjoyable, you may like to try this one, but do not be upset or surprised if you find yourself utterly dissapointed with the story. I hope to see a third book from this author, as the books do show some potential, but until then i will most likely remain dissapointed with this book ;) :DDDD
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome i read the first one and it was epic i hate axel
JenRN99 More than 1 year ago
My son asked if this book was on Nook, he read it a school & loved it. Wish it was available for Nook.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BEST BOOK EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
That wad a really good book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ivlove this one and the first one i love hatchet to what good books i am right give me a hail yeah.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love the book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I heard thire was a second bookto saving zasha but any wase i loved this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the my most fav. Book ever in my life and i know,but if you liked that then you should read finding zasha ,thats my fav too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in 7th grade. It was amazing. Some parts made me cry. S if u have never read thus book before, u have to read it now. This is probably the best book i have ever read. Including the maximum ride series. Thise books were amazing. Inly made it through 3 books. But they were amaze. Read savibg zasha. It qill change ur life. It is also a russian german shepard. And i love animals and books about animals. That is why i like this book and every animal books i have read for the past 15 years. For the rest of my life, i will read about animals. Every animal that exists on this planet. Rate and comment. Again. Reas this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was adorable but zasha just dissapears
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In this book you will find heart-warming and heart-breaking lines and sentences.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read the first book and i loved it! Im sure i will love this one also.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome book best book ever
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read finding zasha (suporing to know im only in 5th grade!) and it is a little upsetting with what ivan did to zash and to thor so im a little afraid to read saving zasha. Should i. And im a girl so my feelings can be upset easaly. So somebody tell me if it is a good idea for me to read it.