Subtitled The Best Dog in Vietnam, this is another book that I think needs to be on our discussion list. It is a great "coming of age" story on several different levels.
Be prepared for tears... Twenty pages from the end, I put the book down and didn't think I'd be able to read any more of this story; I was too emotionally invested. I finally forced myself to pick it back up and finish the book. Some might think the ending unrealistic, but I loved[/i][/b] it.
I had a hard time putting this book down. There were several places though where I was crying so much I just had to take a break. I love the story but I think it is definitely for older readers. Everyone knows that people and animals die in war but the way this story is written it not only puts vivid images in your mind but it also makes war very real. If a book can do this to me as I read I think it is a sign of excellent writing on the author's part.
Did the characaters grow as the story progresses? Oh my, yes they grew and had to live with some very painful truths. I think the thing that I liked best about Rick maturing was he learned to ask for help. This seems to be a hard thing for a lot of young adults to learn to do.
I had a hard time putting this book down. There were several places though where I was crying so much I just had to take a break. I love the story but I think it is definitely for older readers. Everyone knows that people and animals die in war but the way this story is written it not only puts vivid images in your mind but it also makes war very real. If a book can do these to me as I read I think it is a sign of excellent writing on the author's part.
Did the characaters grow as the story progressed? Oh my, yes they grew and had to live with some very painful truths. I think the thing that I liked best about Rick maturing was he learned to ask for help. This seems to be a hard thing for a lot of young adults to learn to do.
I will be looking forward to hearing what others have to say about this title.
I agree that it is a book for older readers but still within the realm of the Newbery. Kadohata does an excellent job crafting believeable points of view of all the characters, especially Cracker's point of view. As I read the book, I was struck by the simplicity of the language. It is a strength of the book since that would be the language of Willie, Rick and Cracker.
When I finished this book, I was so sorry it was over. I want to know what other adventures Rick and Cracker will have. Cynthia Kadohata did a great job telling a hard story with sensitivity. She didn't elaborate on any gruesome details of war, but took me to a place and time that I could really feel. Well developed characters, and detail to the setting and plot makes this 'historical fiction' really come alive. I was holding on so tight at the end. I was so afraid that it would end badly. It is in the upper level of grades, but seems appropriate for 13-14 year-olds if not a little younger. I would put the book on our list for sure, a strong contender.
I especially agree with Diana's comment re: the author telling a hard story with sensitivity...not being too graphic with the harsh realities of war, while not glossing over them either.
Having been in high school during the Vietnam era, this story took me back to images and understandings through a part of the story I'd never heard about--the dog scout troops. I think that, for younger readers (definitely, though, the older end of the Newbery age range), it is a book that will take them with clarity to an era they have not lived through.
Contributing to the "real feel" of the story is the fact that Kadohata brought in the issue of Vietnam vets not having been well-received upon their return to the USA. It is presented to a great enough degree that it could raise questions for further probing, yet is not integral enough to the overall story that it will confuse or detract. What do others think about this point?
POSSIBLE SPOILER: I was so afraid the story would not end well. I believe that would have made it emotionally over the top for the Newbery age group. As it is, the ending, while it may seem like a too-neat-and-clean wrap-up, kept it within emotional reach of middle-school readers.
Wow! I think this is definitely a strong contender. I was impressed by Kadohata's ability to communicate the threat of both physical and emotional injuries to the characters in a way that allowed readers to connect, while not simply relying on graphic descriptions of violence. I was also impressed with the way the author stayed true to the character of Cracker throughout the book. I've never been a big fan of books where the animals "talk," but this one was done so realistically, and after you begin to care about Cracker and Rick, the story is engrossing! Great read!
I just finished reading Cracker -- I've blown my nose and wiped my tears, and am now stable enough to write about it. Oh my goodness! I LOVED this book! This is the first book I've read out of this year's nominees that I've felt this strongly about. Strong, strong characters; great historical fiction, bringing a specific time and place so alive and so present; wonderfully presented themes of loyalty, and persistance, and doing the "right thing" in the face of adversity...Cynthia Kadohata is such a talented writer, I could go on and on...
But (I really hate that word sometimes!), there's something about the ending that I can't let go of...in the author's note at the end, she mentions several facts about scout dogs and their fate after Vietnam...nowhere is it said that any dogs got to return to civilian life with their handlers...I can't shake the awful feeling in my gut that Cracker's return to Rick takes away from the integrity of the story, as much as I REALLY wanted her to return. And, what about all the other dogs? Weren't they just as much loved by their handlers? I don't know, this is just a sticky issue with me, I guess.
But (there's that word again), I agree with everyone else that this is a GREAT read for middle-schoolers on up, although I'm a little worried about a certain 6th grader who picked up this book from my living room endtable last night and was already in tears by page 50...better stock up on Kleenex, I guess.
Oh, one more thing I almost forgot to mention...an interesting thing about this book, I think, is that it will appeal to a wide spectrum of readers...being a "dog book", it will appeal to those attracted to warm, fuzzy stories; being a "war book", it will also appeal to more adventurous types. So, readers may be exposed to something a little outside of their "comfort zone", so to speak.