Saving Zasha

By Randi Barrow

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When World War II ends, 13-year-old Mikhail wants nothing but his father, a soldier who served in World War II for four years, to come home. One Sunday morning, Mikhail was out on his horse, Paku, when he found Zasha, a German Shepherd Dog. After Germany attacked Russia, it was dangerous to own anything German. When Mikhail's family decides to keep Zasha, he and his brother, Nikolai, must do anything to hide her. With dog thieves trying to find any dog they can, Katia, a girl with suspicions about Zasha, and Dimitri, a soldier trying to breed a Russian dog, all trying to find Zasha, Mikhail and Nikolai will do anything to keep her a secret.


The theme of Saving Zasha, is never give up. This is because when Mikhail found Zasha, he did everything he could to protect her. Even when it seemed hopeless, he kept on trying. Also, Mikhail's family never gave up on their father. They waited for him to come home, and talked about what they would do when he got there. Therefore, I believe that the lesson this author is trying to tell us is to never give up.

Historical Accuracy

The characters in this book are fictional, but the facts about the war are true.

After WWII, the Russian government wanted a military dog kennel to breed a new Russian 'Super Dog' to replace all of the dogs killed in Russia.

In the war, the Soviet Union tried to teach dogs to place bombs under tanks and armed vehicles. The dogs pulled a belt to remove a bomb strapped to their backs. When Russia released the dogs onto the war field, the dogs were confused, and ran back to their trainer during the battle. The bomb would go off, killing both the operator and the animal.

After this tactic failed, they starved dogs, and once again tried to teach the dog to run under the tanks. This time, they placed meat under the target. Each dog had a 22 to 26 pound mine carried in two cloth bags adjusted to fit each dog. The mine had a safety pin that was removed right before the dogs were released. A wooden lever came out of one of the pouches that was about 20 centimeters long. When the dog went under the tank, the lever hit the bottom of the tank and detonated the bomb.

After WWII, owning anything German was considered bad, or even traitorous. German Shepherds were commonly shot on sight, even if they were doing nothing wrong. For that reason, it was dangerous to own a German Shepherd after WWII ended. That is one of the reasons for keeping Zasha a secret in this story.

Barrow, Randi G. Saving Zasha. New York: Scholastic, 2011. Print.

"Anti-tank Dog." - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2014.

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