Rummanah Aasi
 There are many books written about World War II, but I have not encountered many books that feature the role of animals during this historical time period like Saving Zasha. If you know any readers who enjoy reading books about pets and don't mind the historical fiction setting, they might like this book.


Description: World War II has just ended when thirteen-year-old Mikhail finds a dying man and his German shepherd, Zasha, in the woods. It's dangerous -- some say traitorous -- to own a German dog after Germany attacked Russia, so Mikhail must keep Zasha a secret to keep her alive.

Review: Saving Zasha is a sweet, quick read about a little known problem that I did not know about at all: the near extinction of any dog in European countries after World War II. As the main character, Mikhail and his familly learns that dogs were used along with soldiers and artillery in the way. The dogs were used and abused for many different purposes, including carrying bombs under tanks, carrying messages through enemy territory, and acting as guard dogs and killers. In addition, declining food resources meant that many animals starved just as humans were struggling to make ends meet. The other I had a hard understanding is that the dogs became a scapegoat and a symbol of prejudice against other nations mainly because they were bred in certain nations, mainly in Germany. 
  Zasha is a German shepherd found by a teenage boy in Russia not long after the war ended. Although he and his family take the dog in to care for her, they must also keep her a secret for the simply reason because her breed includes the word German. Too many hearts are unwilling to forgive or accept that not every aspect of the German culture was bad. I like how the author included chapters that lightened the mood by having the family grow attached to Zasha as well as suspense as the family almost getting caught because of their trespass.
  There is also a bit of a mystery in the secondary plot line as we are not sure whether Mikhail's father who was recruited by the army is alive. An author's historical note is found in the back of the book which gives a bit more details about the roles of dogs in the war and the race to start a new breed of dogs called the Black Russian Terrier.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are mentions of war violence though not graphically detailed. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Finding Zasha by Randi Barrow (a prequel novel about Zasha's background before meeting Mikhail and his family) Wild Life by Cynthia DeFelice, Duke by Kirby Larson,
8 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Please tell me this dog is okay in the end Rummanah! I don't think I could handle this story if anything happens to Zasha! I had no idea dogs were in such jeopardy after the war, that makes me incredibly sad :( I need to go hug my boys now!


  2. First, I'm with Jenny and was looking for that info in your review. Still, I don't know if I could handle it. I hate animal abuse even if there is a reason for it in the book. Um... I think I will pass on it and hug my dobe right now. :(


  3. Oh gosh. I couldn't read this one. It would break my heart.


  4. I think I knowquite a bit about WWII, and yet I had no idea that they drove dogs to near extinction, I actually hate that history is so clean of everything that isn't considered to be relevant. Who can be the judge of that? This sounds like a fabulous, albeit devastating read.


  5. This sounds pretty interesting, Rummanah. Considering how many humans suffered during WWII, I never even thought of the plight of animals! I like that this one makes you more aware about how dogs were treated during and after the war.


  6. Anne Bennett Says:

    I am a sucker for dog stories and for stories based on facts about WWII. Who is the target audience for this book?


  7. Aylee Says:

    Oh I'm a HUGE dog lover, but I don't think I could take it if Zasha was in any way hurt or abused in this book! I kind of get the impression that maybe that is not the case if the book is suitable for a younger audience. I'm such a sucker for dog stories, but ONLY if the dog doesn't die! I guess I'm just super sentimental when it comes to them... Thanks for bringing this one to my attention!


  8. Small Review Says:

    haha I'm with everyone else in hoping the dog is ok! I'm always interested in how dogs play such an unexpectedly large role in wars. I think I have this book somewhere. I should dig it out. Thanks for the reminder and review!


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