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.)[Page 59]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Gr 5-8-- Cracker, a large German shepherd, is given up by Willie, her young owner, because the landlord says she's too big to live in the family's apartment. She is given to the Army as part of the military canine program to be trained to sniff out bombs, traps, and the enemy during the Vietnam War. Rick Hanski, 17, is headed to Vietnam to "whip the world." Cracker and Rick are paired up, and the two learn to work together finding traps and saving men's lives. The story by Cynthia Kadohata (Atheneum, 2007) is told from alternating viewpoints--Rick and Cracker--and gives listeners an unconventional look at the war. When Rick and Cracker are separated, listeners feel the urgency as Rick begins a campaign to find his partner. Kimberly Farr does a great job as narrator, giving each character a distinctive voice. A good choice to make students aware of a little-known aspect of military history.--Lisa W. Baker, Chocowinity Middle School, NC[Page 55]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.