“Cracker, the Best Dog in Vietnam,” by Cynthia Kadohata

Man’s best friend—man’s life saver—that’s a hero of a German Shepard and the star of “Cracker, the Best Dog in Vietnam,” by Cynthia Kadohata. This incredible story of the bond between a young soldier and his dog is told in human and canine voices bringing to light the struggles Cracker and his master endure in the jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam.

Cracker comes to know this new life of strife when his young owner Willie has to give him up because his family has moved to an apartment in Chicago. Willie is heartbroken, and won’t think of sending Cracker to the pound, where he might be euthanized if he isn’t adopted.

When Willie sees an ad in the newspapers alerting readers to the fact that the army is in need of German Shepherds and Labs to serve as bomb-sniffing dogs for the war, Cracker’s fate is sealed. Soon he finds himself in Georgia, working with Rick Hanski, a 17-year-old handler he soon bonds with, and becomes determined to protect at all costs.

Not for tweens who are faint of heart, “Cracker, the Best Dog in Vietnam” lays bare the horrors of war, the pain, heartbreak and misery. But this marvelous book also highlights the amazing bond formed by canines and humans during the war. Young readers won’t soon forget Cracker and other dogs like her who served their country, sniffing out danger at the cost of losing their own lives.