Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam

Written by Cynthia Kadohata
Review by Ken Kreckel

Cracker, a failed show dog, can no longer live with the family of her eleven-year-old master, Willie. Desperate to keep her alive, Willie spies a newspaper ad telling of an urgent need for dogs in Vietnam. Harboring a dream of Cracker becoming “the best dog in Vietnam,” Willie convinces his parents to donate her to the Army’s dog training program. Once there, Cracker languishes, until meeting her unlikely new master, a gung-ho young soldier named Rick. Together they set out, in Rick’s words, “to whip the world.” That’s quite all right with Cracker, who considers herself all-powerful, and acts accordingly. Man and dog go through a rugged training, where they progress as a team from the worst in the group to nearly the best.

Once in ’Nam, the pair excel. Cracker proves to be proficient not only at finding mines and booby traps, but enemy fighters as well. In mission after mission, the pair proves their value, saving countless lives in the process. Finally they earn a dangerous assignment with the Special Forces. Rick has his chance at last to “whip the world,” with the “best dog in Vietnam” at his side.

This is a quality story, at once heart warming and realistic. The author does a superb job of telling it from two perspectives, that of both Rick and Cracker. The dog’s viewpoint is particularly effective—one begins to feel like Rick, who is as one with his dog. The author’s research is such that the reader will come away with an excellent appreciation of the work of scout dog teams in Vietnam, particularly a clear understanding of their life saving abilities in the middle of a devastating war. Recommended for middle-grade through adult.