Now that the Cybils are over (at least for my part in them), I'm able to get to some of the books that have been on my TBR shelf for quite awhile, Cracker being one of them. Cynthia Kadohata has been iffy with me so far, I really did not enjoy Kira-Kira, but I had pretty high hopes for this one. It does have a dog as a main character after all....
Cracker: The Best Dog in Vietnam is the story of a German Shepard, bred as a show dog but injured with a broken leg and thus taken out of all competition. He ends up living with Willie, a boy that loves and cares for for the dog more than anything in the world (and renames him Cracker). Unfortunately, Willie's apartment building does not accept pets and Willie and his family are forced to give Cracker to yet another new home, devastating the boy and scaring Cracker.
The dog ends up being enrolled in a military scout-dog program, paired with his new handler, a seventeen year old named Rick that is out to "whip the world." Cracker and Rick will be trained to sniff out bombs and other weapons while in Vietnam, a task that is huge to learn for Cracker and possibly even harder for Rick. As the pair become closer and learn more, an unbreakable bond is formed; a bond that will be put to the ultimate test once they arrive in Vietnam and true war is where they find themselves.
Told first from Willie's perspective, then alternating between Cracker and Rick, all the bases get covered in such a realistic manner. I think Kadohata redeemed herself with me through this wonderfully written and sweet story. The bond between human and dog is extremely hard to describe, but the author has done it absolutely beautifully. She got it. The uncertainty between dog and owner at first is a thin line, but the trust that builds is an awesome thing.
Cracker is a great story, one I will recommend over and over. Just the right amount of heart, compassion, and a plain old good story.
To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.