Finding Zasha

344p. chron. maps. Scholastic. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-45218-2; ebook $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-53223-5. LC 2012030834
Gr 5–8—In this prequel to Saving Zasha (Scholastic, 2011), 12-year-old Ivan must escape from Leningrad after the Nazi invasion and his mother's forced factory-work assignment. He travels with his wise and resourceful neighbor, Auntie, across a frozen lake in dangerously arctic temperatures to the mountains, but he is soon entrapped by Nazi soldiers and forced to live with villainous Major Axel Recht as a dog trainer. Ivan is aware that the brutal purpose of these trained bloodhounds is to track down escaping Russians. Working as a spy for the partisans, he is determined to run with the two puppies, Thor and Zasha, but underestimates Recht's cruel determination to retrieve both his prisoner and his dogs. Barrow creates a suspenseful, engaging boy-loves-dog story within the historical context of the Russian World War II landscape, amid the harrowing environment of daily bombings and a vicious enemy. A climactic fight scene will keep readers enthralled to the concluding cliff-hanger ending in which Ivan is left with Thor, wondering how his mother fared during the occupation and if he will ever see Zasha again.—Rita Soltan, Youth Services Consultant, West Bloomfield, MI

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