When Germany invaded Poland, Stuka bombers devastated Warsawand the citys zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski began smuggling Jews into empty cages. Another dozen guests hid inside the Zabinskis villa, emerging after dark for dinner, socializing, and, during rare moments of calm, piano concerts. Jan, active in the Polish resistance, kept ammunition buried in the elephant enclosure and stashed explosives in the animal hospital. Meanwhile, Antonina kept her unusual household afloat, caring for both its human and its animal inhabitantsotters, a badger, hyena pups, lynxes.
With her exuberant prose and exquisite sensitivity to the natural world, Diane Ackerman engages us viscerally in the lives of the zoo animals, their keepers, and their hidden visitors. She shows us how Antonina refused to give in to the penetrating fear of discovery, keeping alive an atmosphere of play and innocence even as Europe crumbled around her.
So many stories have been written about the Holocaust. Some recount one of the few small miracles, they give us hope for humanity, and honor those who acted with compassion. Others delve into the darkest parts of the destruction, sinking the reader deep into the trenches of the violence. But The Zookeeper's Wife does both, which is what makes it so worth reading. Writing unflinchingly with equal vigor about the beauty and the ugliness, Diane Ackerman manages to re-sensitize the reader to acts of war and acts of grace. (Reviewed by Lucia Silva).
The New York Times - D. T. Max
This is an absorbing book, diminished sometimes by the choppy way Ackerman balances Antonina's account with the larger story of the Warsaw Holocaust.
The Washington Post - Susie Linfield
A lovely story ....that is simultaneously grave and exuberant, wise and playful. Ackerman has a wonderful tale to tell, and she tells it wonderfully.
Starred Review. This suspenseful beautifully crafted story deserves a wide readership.
Booklist - Donna Seaman
Starred Review. Ackerman's affecting telling of the heroic Zabinskis' dramatic story illuminates the profound connection between humankind and nature, and celebrates life's beauty, mystery, and tenacity.
Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel
Diane Ackerman has surpassed even herself in her latest book, which is alternatingly funny, moving, and terrifying.
Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Everything is Illuminated
I can't imagine a better story or storyteller. The Zookeeper's Wife will touch every nerve you have.
Dava Sobel, author of The Planets and Galileo's Daughter
Stunning….Rarely does one read a book in which the author and the heroine are so magically matched.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by This Book Is Not Good Do Not Read This Book I'm going to be a freshman in high school and I had to read this book for the summer. I HATE this book. All my friends have to read it too and they all hate it. My friends mom read it and she didn't like it either. So I do not recommend this book... Read More
Rated of 5
by A Bookshelf Monstrosity Zookeeper's Wife Ackerman pulls from Antonina Zabinski's extensive memoirs of her experiences in World War II Poland and from her own research on the topic to tell the story of the hundreds of Jews that passed through this particular stop on the Polish Underground.... Read More
Rated of 5
by J. Arnold Copiously Researched The beauty in Diane Ackerman's The Zookeeper's Wife lies in her attention to detail. She tells the story of Jan and Antonia Zabinski, the director of the Warsaw Zoo and his wife, during the Polish Occupation during WWII, with beautiful prose that... Read More
Tucked into The Zookeeper's Wife is the equally myth-like
story of Janusz Korczak (photo). A friend of the Zabinksis', Korczak was a Polish writer
and pediatrician who founded a progressive orphanage for boys and girls in
Warsaw in 1912. He had a popular radio show, enjoyed by both children and
adults, and his children's book,
King Matt the First, is known as well in
Poland as Alice and Wonderland or Peter Pan is in the States.
Korczak insisted on the importance of respecting and listening to children,
believing that parents, caregivers, and instructors could do best by learning
from them. He insisted that the role of the parent was not to impose a set of
behaviors or expectations on a child, but rather that the child should be given
a respectful, safe, loving place to thrive and work at her own pace towards her
own goals. Korczak's orphanage was complete with its own child-run parliament,
newspaper and a court system that encouraged the children to work out their
feuds through forgiveness and...
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