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Extended Audio Sample The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story, by Diane Ackerman Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (18,209 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Diane Ackerman Narrator: Suzanne Toren Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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When Germany invaded Poland, bombers devastated Warsaw—and the city’s zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski began smuggling Jews into the 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 inhabitants and refusing to give in to the penetrating fear of discovery, even as Europe crumbled around her.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Ackerman…makes beautiful work of harrowing tales of [her characters’] determination to keep souls alive, in the actual and metaphorical sense both.”

    New York Daily News

  • “A true story—of human empathy and its opposite—that is simultaneously grave and exuberant, wise and playful.”

    Washington Post Book World

  • “Fresh and compelling…Ackerman has succeeded in a vivid, cinematically written book that’s bound to find its way to the screen.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “An inspiring read…may join Schindler's List and Hotel Rwanda as popular accounts of heroism in the face of genocide.”

    Salt Lake Tribune

  • “This suspenseful, beautifully crafted story deserves a wide readership.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “An exemplary work of scholarship and an ‘ecstasy of imagining,’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.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Ackerman has done an invaluable service in bringing a little-known story of heroism and compassion to light. Highly recommended.”

    Library Journal

  • A New York Times Bestseller

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Lisa Sheffield | 2/13/2014

    " This is a fascinating story and I learned a good bit about the occupation of Poland and the Warsaw Ghetto -- but Ackerman is a bit far afield when it comes to telling history and a "story" -- so the jumping around and glossing over information was a negative. The other thing that bothered me throughout the book -- Antonina was terrified of being discovered by the Germans, yet she kept a written diary that survived and is the basis for the book -- just seems odd to me. The tale is heart-wrenching as is the brutality of the treatment of the Poles and the Jews, but ultimately the story illuminates humanity at its best as strangers help strangers and make sacrifices in life-threatening situations. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Mary Haas | 2/12/2014

    " Not always the best writing, but the story is so intriguing you'll stay with it. Astonishing bravery and resistance in Nazi occupied Poland "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Isabelle | 1/30/2014

    " Amazing story about a family non-Jewish zoo owners in Warsaw harboring refugees during WWII. Loads of historical background, as well as quite a bit of zoological info. I think the aspect I'll remember the most is the young son growing up in an atmosphere of trust (his beloved animals) and terror (the German occupiers). "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Holly | 1/29/2014

    " A curiously flat telling of how a Polish couple worked as part of the underground during World War II and saved hundreds of people (and animals too). A heroic story that deserves a better telling. "

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