Book Club Kit: The Zookeeper’s Wife

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War StoryThe Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story
by Diane Ackerman
First Published: 2007
10 Copies & Reading Guide

When Germany invaded Poland, Stuka bombers devastated Warsaw—and the city’s zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Żabiński began smuggling Jews into empty cages. Another dozen “guests” hid inside the Żabiński’s 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 inhabitants—otters, a badger, hyena pups, lynxes.

Reading Guide:
LitLovers – Includes Brief Synopsis, Author Information, Reviews, and Discussion Questions

The New York Times – “Antonina’s List” by D.T. Max
The Washington Post – “A Natural History of Terrible Things” by Susie Linfield
Los Angeles Times – “Strange Sanctuary” by Donna Seaman

Official Author Website:

Official Website of the Warsaw Zoo: (in Polish) – includes live feeds from the zoo (some content is translated).

On the Web:
NPR – Listen to Diane Ackerman talk about the book on Talk of the Nation.
Diane Ackerman on KPBS – San Diego

More about Jan & Antonina Żabiński and World War II:
Yad Vashem -includes Photographs from the Warsaw Ghetto, an essay about Jan and Antonina, information about Warsaw, and a letter from Irena Meizel regarding the Żabiński’s efforts.
History Reference Center – an EBSCO Database provided by the Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records. It includes articles and information on every aspect of WWII.
Wikipedia – offers color photos & images of the Auroch, Przewalski’s Horse, Heck Cattle, and Heck Horse
The Sunday Times – “A Shaggy Cow Story: How a Nazi Experiment Brought Extinct Aurochs to Devon” by Simon de Bruxelles

Similar Reads:
Night by Elie Wiesel
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally
Sarah’s Key (Book Club Kit) by Tatiana de Rosnay

Did you love or loathe The Zookeeper’s Wife? Share your thoughts in the comments below or over at Goodreads.

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