What is the summary for Finding Zasha by Randi G. Barrow?

Finding Zasha is about a 12-year-old boy named Ivan who, in the midst of Nazi-occupied Russia, leaves his family to live with relatives. He joins an anti-German group, is employed by a German commander, and then escapes with two of the commander's dogs.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Finding Zasha is a historical young adult novel written by Randi Barrow. Set in 1941, the novel's setting is Russia in the midst of World War II. Leningrad is under siege by German forces, and Ivan, a twelve-year-old, is sent away from the city to live with extended family.

However,...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Finding Zasha is a historical young adult novel written by Randi Barrow. Set in 1941, the novel's setting is Russia in the midst of World War II. Leningrad is under siege by German forces, and Ivan, a twelve-year-old, is sent away from the city to live with extended family.

However, even in the secluded town with his relatives, Ivan is captured by Germans and forced into slave labor. A German commander, Axel Recht, takes interest in Ivan and enlists him to help care for Recht’s two dogs. Ivan immediately sympathizes with the animals when he witnesses Recht’s penchant for violence.

One day, Recht leaves for battle. Ivan takes advantage of Recht’s absence to escape with the two dogs with the help of the Partisans. While caring for Recht’s dogs, Ivan has also secretly gathered information to pass along to the Partisans, who are a group subverting the Germans.

What comes next is a harrowing tale of escape. Ivan has underestimated Recht’s desire to get his dogs back, and Recht hunts Ivan and his dogs. Throughout the escape, Ivan continues to survive despite a number of obstacles.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

At the start of Finding Zasha, 12-year-old Ivan lives as normal a life as is possible during a war, with his mother in Leningrad. When his mother's job forces her to move to the Ural Mountains, however, Ivan is not allowed to accompany her. He is therefore sent to live with relatives, and getting to his relatives' home involves a perilous journey over a frozen lake.

Once settled in the German-occupied town, Ivan, a talented concertina player, joins a group called the Partisans—a group who are fighting the German stronghold in the area. Ivan intentionally attracts the attention of Axel Recht, who then forces Ivan to come and work for him after hearing his musical talent. Ivan vows to find ways to use his new position to undermine the German war effort. The one aspect of his new job that Ivan loves, however, is caring for and training Recht's dogs. He grows particularly attached to two German Shepherd puppies, Thor and Zasha.

One day, when Recht's attention is elsewhere, Ivan seizes his chance and runs away, taking Thor and Zasha with him. What Ivan had not realized was how much Recht would want his dogs back. Ivan finds himself being chased by Recht, who is blindly determined to recover his dogs at whatever cost. All this action, of course, takes place in the midst of a war zone.

The novel ends on a hopeful note, with the possibility of Ivan's being reconciled with his mother.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Finding Zasha by Randi G. Barrow was published in 2013 and is the story of Ivan, a twelve-year-old boy in the year 1941 in Leningrad, Germany. Ivan is a partisan activist who is against the war, which is a very dangerous thing to be in 1941 in Germany.

Ivan lives in Leningrad with his mother, and the Germans are beginning an epic battle as the novel opens. Food shortages are rife, and all supply lines in and out of the city are cut off. Ivan's mother's job is moving to a site in the Ural Mountains due to safety concerns, and Ivan is not allowed to move with her. Instead, he will be sent to live with relatives across Lake Lagoda once the lake is frozen enough to hold his weight.

As soon as the ice freezes, he sets off for Lake Lagoda. Soon after his arrival, the town falls under Nazi control. Ivan meets a particularly cruel Nazi soldier named Axel Recht who forces Ivan to come work for him. Since Ivan wants to continue his resistance work and spy on the Germans, he is secretly pleased with the assignment. One of Ivan's tasks is to train Alex's dogs. In doing so, he becomes very close to two puppies in particular, Thor and Zasha. One day Recht is called away to manage a battlefield crisis, and Ivan decides to make his move; he takes both dogs and runs. Ivan is mercilessly hunted and must hide, protect the dogs, and manage not be shot at or bombed during one of the most deadly sieges in the history of World War II.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This is more than just another story about a boy and his dog. In the tradition of Barrow, it is truly a heroic tale about World War II regarding Ivan (a twelve-year-old boy) and Zasha (his German shepherd). 

The setting is the early 1940s at the beginning of the long German siege on Leningrad when Ivan is sent to live elsewhere for his own safety. The journey to leave Leningrad is long and hard. Even after Ivan leaves, the town he moves into is taken over by the Nazis as well. Unfortunately, it is at this point that one of the Nazi soldiers, Axel Recht, chooses Ivan to work for the Reich. Luckily, Ivan is asked to train the Nazi dogs (Ivan's most beloved kind of animal). 

Ivan turns the Nazi dog-training into a rescue mission (for the dogs) and a sabotage mission (of the Nazis). In short, Ivan trains the dogs not to kill. Meanwhile, Ivan gets close to both Zasha and Thor (two German shepherds he is training). Eventually, Ivan escapes with both dogs, but is hunted down by Axel Recht and his men. 

Ivan experiences many of the World War II battles as he hides from Axel Recht. Zasha and Thor both protect Ivan and need protection. The end to this story is about Ivan's possible reunion with Zasha (after losing him for a while) and with his own mother.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team