Study Guide

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story Family

By Diane Ackerman

Family

During World War II, the Allied powers included the United States, Britain, France, and Poland, among many others. These countries became a temporary family, fighting against evil.

Another group of allies, featured in The Zookeeper's Wife, is made up of Jan and Antonina, along with their son, Ryś, and their badgers, hamsters, dogs, cats, and elephants—not to mention their Guests. That's quite a family. As zookeepers, Antonina and Jan treat their animals as family, too. As an allied front against the Nazis, they believe that united they can stand, but divided, they will fall.

And, of course, if they fall, their animals might eat them.

Questions About Family

  1. Which animals become part of the family? How are they treated once they're welcomed into the house?
  2. What causes tension in Jan and Antonina's marriage?
  3. How does the war change the ways Antonina raises her son?
  4. Do Jan and Antonina treat their Guests as family, too?

Chew on This

Jan and Antonina are crucial allies for the Polish Underground during the war, and the fact that they are a strong family unit makes them an even better asset than if they were apart.

As zookeepers, Jan and Antonina treat animals as part of the family. To them the bonds between a person and an animal can be just as strong as the bonds between people—maybe even stronger in a time of war, when people are killing each other all over the place.

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