Young Adult Fiction of 2007: Cracker: The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata

Cynthia Kadohata is the author of the Newbery Award winning book, Kira-Kira as well as last year’s Cybil Finalist for Middle Grade Fiction, Weedflower. They’re both great books, and this new book, Cracker is just as good. But unlike Kira-Kira, a book about a Japanese American girl named Katie remembering her childhood, and Weedflower, the story of a young middle school age girl who is sent with her family to a Japanese interment camp during WW II, Cracker is not about being Japanese American, and it’s not about a young teenage or pre-teen girl.

It’s a war story about a seventeen year old young man named Rick Hanski and his experiences as a dog handler in Vietnam toward the end of the American involvement in Vietnam’s civil war. Cracker is Rick’s dog, a German shepherd, and part of the story is told from the point of view of the dog. This switch back and forth from Rick’s point of view to Cracker’s doesn’t always work. Sometimes the change from one to the other is even done in mid-paragraph with no warning, but the story’s so good that I was willing to ignore the difficulties in role changing that I had to jump through as a reader. Ms. Kadohata doesn’t anthropomorphize Cracker, the dog, too much, but Cracker’s thoughts are a little bit sophisticated for a German shepherd.

Yeah, this book is for dog lovers, but it’s also for guys, or girls, who are thinking about joining the military. Or it might be just the book for sending over to a soldier friend in Iraq or Afghanistan. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone younger than, say, twelve years old, however. The language is relatively clean, and there are no “mature situations” as they say in the movie disclaimers, but the violence of a real shooting war is described in all of its, well, violence.

Rick, the protagonist, is a great character. He’s been told that he’s a “generalist” not a “specialist”, that her doesn’t really “apply himself”, and that he doesn’t have any particular gifts or talents. Nevertheless, Rick decides that he’s going to “whip the world.” He doesn’t know how or where or when, but as he kind of stumbles into the army, then into dog handling, then over to Vietnam, Rick grows into a man of integrity and purpose. I want to give this book to Computer Guru Son, age 22, but I know he wouldn’t read it with the picture of the dog on the front and the subtitle “the best dog in Vietnam.” That subtitle makes the book sound and look way too juvenile, and I’m afraid it’s going to be a hard sell to those young adults that I think would really enjoy it the most.

Cracker: The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata is nominated for the Cybil Award for Middle Grade Fiction.

13 thoughts on “Young Adult Fiction of 2007: Cracker: The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata

  1. I’ve always enjoyed Newberry Award books. This one seems to be just as interesting. Thanks!

  2. Laxygirl19

    I had to read this book for my book report and it was the best book i have ever read and i have read a lot of books in my life. I have to recomend that you read it because you will fall righ in love with it and never want to put it down.=)

  3. Cracker was a great book. I had to read it for a book report and i could not put it down. If your local library has this book i would recommend you getting it and reading it beacause it is a very good book

  4. I’m currently reading Cracker!! I got inspired to read this book because I personally have a German Shepherd myself and run a SAAN club (( A.nimal A.buse N.ow Foundation/Club. Please add on Myspace! Anyway, this book is very good and i rate a 5 star to the author!!

    – Head Founder of SAAN Abigail Reese

  5. when will they make a movie about this??.. poor tristie:(

  6. i loved the book it was amazing .it was soo cool.i normuly hate reading but wene i started reading this book i loved reading it.allthow poor tristie she was crackers bast friend but the dies thats sad.but her friend bruno lived to that was nice.u shood make a movie of it. plz add me onmyspace your facebook. i wood like to talk with u about making a nother book.

  7. funnyguy

    cracker is such a good book i just finished reading it and i cryed especially about triste=(

  8. funnyguy

    i recommend it

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