Study Guide

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story Courage

By Diane Ackerman

Courage

Small dogs don't realize that they're small. This can cause them to stand up to bigger animals in stand-offs that seem like huge acts of bravery.

In The Zookeeper's Wife, Jan and Antonina are small dogs stuck in a big war. What sets them apart from actual dogs—and makes them actually courageous instead of just foolish—is that Antonina and Jan know they are small. But that doesn't stop them from standing up to the Nazis, who are the big dogs in this dog fight.

Questions About Courage

  1. Where does Jan get his courage from? What do you consider the bravest thing he does?
  2. How does Antonina demonstrate her courage?
  3. There are many courageous humans in this book, but are there courageous animals? Is it possible for animals to be brave and courageous?

Chew on This

Courage has different definitions at different times. During World War II, simply getting up and functioning, when bombs could fall or soldiers could attack at any moment, is a brave act.

Running away is sometimes considered cowardly, but for the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, it's courageous to attempt an escape—and it's courageous to assist them. Failure means certain death.

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