A Mini Review of Saving Zasha by Randi Barrow
Ages 10-14 (Scholastic Press)
Saving Zasha is another book on the Maine Student Book Award List (MSBA) for 2012-13.
This book is set in Russia just after WWII. At this time, most of the dogs in the country have died due to disease, starvation and the war in general. One day 13 year old Mikhail happens upon a dying man not far from his home. The man has a dog with him, a German Shepard. This dog was the most beautiful dog Mikhail, or anyone else, had ever seen. However, having a German Shepherd at the time was considered close to traitorous. Even though dogs were scarce, Russian soldiers had been known to shoot German Shepherds because of their hatred of Germans.
Mikhail takes the man and his dog, Zasha, back to his house where the man soon dies. Mikhail, his older brother, younger sister and mother try to hide the dog from others in order to keep her safe (his father has not returned from the war and there is no word of his whereabouts).
Hiding Zasha proves challenging due to a nosy neighbor who wants a dog of her own and dog snatchers that want to steal dogs to sell.
While any dog lover will be touched by Saving Zasha, some background knowledge of WWII and the time period is helpful to understand the details in the story.
Though the ending is a bit abrupt, it still ties things up nicely for the reader. Because of it's references to violence and some mistreatment of animals, I would not recommend Saving Zasha for students under 5th grade.