Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway: Saving Zasha, by Randi Barrow (Scholastic, 2011)

Recommended for ages 10 and up.


I love a good dog story, and was delighted to find a terrific dog heroine (and no, she doesn't die at the end!) in this new historical fiction perfect for middle schoolers by debut children's novelist Randi Barrow.  Don't forget to check The Fourth Musketeer tomorrow for a fascinating interview with Randi!

Set in Russia at the end of World War II, this page-turner opens as thirteen-year old Mikhail finds a dying soldier and his beautiful German shepherd in the forest near his house.  When the soldier doesn't make it, the family is faced with a dilemma--what to do with his dog, Zasha?  The Germans were so hated by the Russians at the end of the war that German dogs were shot in the street out of vengeance, and Mikhail and his family decide to hide Zasha to save her life.

Dogs of any kind or breed were a rarity in the Soviet Union right after the war--many had starved to death or been killed in combat after being trained to blow up German tanks.  The Russian army has realized that it needs dogs after all, and Zasha is in constant danger from armed dog thieves looking for dogs to sell on the black market, a nosy neighbor girl who secretly craves a dog for herself, and a Russian soldier who is charged with breeding a new Russian superdog at a nearby farm.  Mikhail and his family fall desperately in love with the loving, smart, and loyal Zasha.  They've lost so much in the cruel war, including Mikhail's papa, who's still missing--will they lose Zasha too?

This is a fast-moving adventure story that will have a broad appeal to both boys and girls; we can't help but fall in love with Zasha, and empathize with her new family.  Nothing is simple in wartime, including innocent dogs, who were trained as vicious guard dogs and made to sacrifice themselves in battle.  But we also see how Zasha has an incredible healing effect on this family, whose members have suffered during the war.

Black Russian Terrier
Although this story is fiction, the author includes an afterword on the breeding of the Black Russian Terrier, a hardy Russian dog which was bred after the war, mostly with dogs imported from East Germany because there were indeed hardly any dogs remaining in the Soviet Union.

A great read-along for this book would be Cynthia Kadohata's Cracker!  The Best Dog in Vietnam (Atheneum, 2007), the story of a young soldier's bond with his bomb-sniffing dog in the Vietnam war.

Giveaway information:  Scholastic has generously donated a copy of Saving Zasha for one of my lucky readers--to enter to win, please leave a comment below with your e-mail and the title of your favorite dog book (for kids or adults!)  The winner will be chosen by random number generator on March 20, 2011.  

29 comments:

Cleoppa said...

Cool! Love dog books. Some of my favorite dog books are those by author Albert Payson Terhune, who wrote back in the 1900s. My favorite, I think, is Greyfriar's Bobby.

E-mail is remobec [{at}] gmail com

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love a compelling and heartfelt dog story! I look forward to reading this one and promoting it to my young dog-loving patrons!

GJB71563@aol.com

Anonymous said...

I've heard great things about this book already and would love to win a copy for our library collection! Megan@meadereads.org

Sharon said...

My favorite dog book has to be Sharon Creech's "Love That Dog", though for a fun title (that does not involve dead dogs in any way), I really liked Leslie Margolis' "Girl's Best Friend", which is a cute little dog mystery.

Sharon said...

Oh, and my email is miss.sharonbn@gmail.com

Renee said...

Hi Fourth Musketeer,

Thanks to you & Scholastic for making this possible! I had a black Lab that died last year around this time. His name was Tucker. He had many aliases: Mr. Big Nose, Hiya-kutuckie (remember the comet?)and more. Anyway, a favorite book is Taking My Dog to the Vet by Susan Kuklin, c1998! Why--because it went through the areas of checking to see what is a healthy dog -- bright eyes, shiny fur, clean ears, good teeth, healthy footpads,and such. I used to do this mini check-up routine with him and the end result was always a waggy tail.
I imagine you'll hear from quite a lot of dog owners! Once in your heart...
Renee
rchristiansen@lancasterlibraries.org

Heidi Estrin said...

I adore dog books, and they always seem to make me choke up. One of my very favorites is the picture book The Stray Dog by Marc Simont. The illustrations convey so much about the connection the family has to the little lost dog, and the moment when the children stand up to the dogcatcher and declare Willie to be theirs is a dramatic climax worthy of Frank Capra's movie-making. I would love to be entered into the drawing for Saving Zasha!

heidirestrin@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

This looks like a very good book. I enjoy World War II stories, and I do like dog books. One of my favorite dog books is "Where the Red Fern Grows," by Wilson Rawls. That always makes me cry. I also like "Lad: A Dog," by Terhune, and of course, who could forget classics like "Sounder," and "Old Yeller?" My e-mail is rose@wrightlibrary.org

Thank you!

Patty

Chocolate-eating Librarian said...

Hi,

Thanks for the chance to win a book for my library!
My favorite dog books growing up: Big Red (and rest of series), Lad: A Dog (and rest of series), the original (non-Disney) 101 Dalmations by Dodie Smith (a truly lovely chapter book), and Lassie, by Eric Knight.
Take care,
Maggie Bollar
New Carlisle Public Library
readingisimportant@gmail.com

MaryAnn Karre said...

My favorite dog book is one that we cannot find any more. I remember learning to read with a "Dick and Jane' book about a cocker spaniel named Sandy. Sandy was also my Dad's nickname, so the book was special to me!
Dog books are popular with boys and girls, and we especially like a book with a dog that is a survivor! The World War II era is also of great interest to our students since we enjoyed a visit from Susan Campbell Bartoletti. It sounds like this book would be a hit!

Jennifer said...

Would love to win a copy. My daughter loves dog books and would love to win one and donate it to my library. Love it when the dog doesn't die!

Jennifer P
jmpwel@yahoo.com

Kel in N. Indiana said...

I saw this book in my daughter's Scholastic flyer recently, and my husband and I thought it would be a great book for her and her younger sister who loves animals. We own a black and silver German shepherd, and we're always on the lookout for books that feature them. I like that it has a good ending, as my youngest is ultra sensitive when it comes to any animal. It would be difficult to choose a favorite dog book, my daughters and I read so widely. Thanks for offering this book!

Kel
kvorhis@centurylink.net

adriana said...

Thanks for hosting this!! I would love a copy for my library. My favorite dog book is The Art of Racing in the Rain, and my two dogs say hello. Their names are Frida & Che and you can 'like' their facebook page at facebook.com/fridaandche

~Adriana (nostalgiclibrarian.blogspot.com)
thenostalgiclibrarian at gmail dot com

NaievaBookist.blogspot.com said...

One of the funniest dog books is Hank the Cowdog. Naieva Bookist.blogspot.com

christy27204 said...

When I was a kid I loved The Puppy Sister by S. E. Hinton. I've gone back to read it as an adult and it's a really silly story but Hinton (of The Outsiders fame) is such a good writer that even a story about a puppy transforming into a human is somehow relatable. I also loved some of the sadder dog books (think Where the Red Fern Grows and Old Yeller) so I'm glad to hear about a canine story that doesn't end in tragedy. Thanks for your review!

-Christina V
christina4703@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Cracker! is very popular in my library, so I think the kids will really like Saving Zasha. And I have both kids and adults who say they can't bear to read "dog books" because, you know, the dog always dies....but not this one - so people will enjoy this for THAT reason too!
Wendy Stephany
email: wstephany@bbschools.org

JoyceHostetter said...

This book looks like a must have! I'm gong to vote for Where the Red Fern grows. But I remember really loving White Fang when I was much younger!

jan godown annino said...

Great post. Sounds as if we are all in for a fine story. I hope there is huge support for Randi Barrow's debut novel.

I visited the author's site because of this post. As you would expect, her background is of keen interest. And she is affiliated with fine dog groups.

Always exciting to learn of a new author.
Many thanks!

Anonymous said...

So excited at the chance to win this book as I just became the director of a small library that is VERY budget challenged (aren't they all?). One of my favorite dogs is the one in The Knife of Letting Go - brought a tear to my eye...

My email is jlmillig@yahoo.com

Kathleen said...

If you have any left, I would love a book like this. We are a small rural agriculture Town in CT. My patrons have read "Cracker: Best Dog in Vietnam" and loved it. Our mailing address is Union Free Public Library, Kathleen M. Robertson, Head Librarian, 979 Buckley Highway, Union, CT 06076. Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention. Kathy

Lawral the Librarian said...

This looks like a great book! I love that "dog books" are moving away from dogs dying at the end. My faves have got to be Because of Winn-Dixie and No More Dead Dogs. :)
lucywasrobbed(at)gmail(dot)com

Leanna said...

This looks like it will be great! We'd love a copy at my library.

My favorite book with dogs (and cats!) is Howliday Inn by James Howe. I love Harold. :)

My email is lchappel@gmail.com

greenspot said...

Thanks for the advance notice about this title. Dog stories are always popular and this one sounds like a great addition to the collection. Gary Paulsen's 'My Life in Dog Years' and Joan Hiatt Harlow's 'Star in the Storm' could be good companions.

PCHS Library said...

Thanks for the chance of winning this book. Looks like a hit at our library where dog stories are popular with middle schoolers.
Yvonne at ypowderly@gmail.com

Ms. V said...

One of my favorite dog books that is very popular is Where the Red Fern Grows. Thanks for the chance at winning your book.

vfisher@biblio.org

Tribute Books Mama said...

Would love to win this book, thanks for the giveaway.

tributebooksmama at gmail dot com

Carol N Wong said...

To the person who loves the Dick and Jane books along with me, you can find a slew of those books by Googling "Fun with Dick and Jane". Happy Hunting!

My most fovorite dog book is 'Bad to the Bone,
Memoir of a Rebel Doggie Blogger' by Bo Hoefinger. It is loaded with pictures of the amazing pooch and you will laugh until you cry!
I have the book handy all the time.


CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

Anonymous said...

My fave dog character of all time is Buck from "Call of the Wild". I would love to win Zasha for my daughter who loves dogs of all breeds!
Zoe0825@verizon.net

Kerry S. said...

Oh, it's so hard to pick just one favorite dog book. I guess I'll go with The Sky Inside by Clare B. Dunkle, since nobody's mentioned it yet -- but I also love Cracker: The Best Dog in Vietnam, Because of Winn-Dixie, and The Art of Racing in the Rain. I'm a big lover of all dogs, but German Shepherd Dogs have a very special place in my heart. I'm really looking forward to reading Saving Zasha! :)

skerry[at]infionline[dot]net