The Best Dog in Vietnam
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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. 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.
Reading Group Guide
CRACKER!: THE BEST DOG IN VIETNAM
By Cynthia Kadohata
ABOUT THE BOOK
Cracker, a prize German shepherd, once belonged to a boy named Willie, but now belongs to the U.S. military, which has trained her to sniff out bombs, traps, and the enemy. She never believes that she will find a master as loving as Willie until she meets seventeen-year-old Rick Hanski, an army private in basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia. Rick enlisted in the military knowing that he would go to Vietnam, but he never intended to go as a dog handler. To U-Haul, Rick's sergeant, Cracker and Rick are an unlikely pair, but when they get to Vietnam, they become a team and are sent on dangerous search-and-rescue missions, often in the "point" position. In one deadly battle, Rick and Cracker are separated, and Rick receives a serious wound and a ticket home. When he arrives at his parents' house in Wisconsin, he finds that he is a changed man, and the only way that he can ever be at peace with himself is to be reunited with his best friend -- Cracker.
ACTIVITIES BEFORE READING
Have students look at a time line of the United States' involvement in Vietnam (http://www.pbs.org/battlefieldvietnam/timeline/index4.html). Engage them in a discussion about the difference between a conflict and a war. At what point did the Vietnam conflict become the Vietnam War?
Willie knows that see more