The Zookeeper's Wife Book Discussion Questions

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

''The Zookeeper's Wife'' made a splash when it was published for bringing to light an incredible true story from Nazi-occupied Warsaw. A discussion on this book can be beneficial to many students in history or literature classes.

The Zookeeper's Wife

The Zookeeper's Wife is a 2007 nonfiction book by Diane Ackerman, based on the real experiences of Polish zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski. During World War II and the German occupation of Warsaw, the Zabinskis find their city ravaged and occupied, and the Jewish population confined to misery in the Warsaw ghetto. The Zabinskis use their nearly abandoned zoo as refuge for Warsaw's Jews, joining the resistance and helping to save many lives. In fact, it is estimated that over 300 people were saved by the Zabinskis. The book is acclaimed for bringing this true story to light as well as its fluid and literary writing style. These discussion questions can help your students work through the themes and ideas of the book, and can help you integrate The Zookeeper's Wife into classes on history or literature.

Questions About Characters

  • Who are the main protagonists and antagonists of The Zookeeper's Wife? How does the book describe them? How are they introduced to the reader?
  • Why do you think this book is entitled The Zookeeper's Wife? How does this title reflect the ways that each of the Zabinskis are framed throughout the story? What makes Antonina the main protagonist?
  • Can a setting be a character? In what way might you argue that Warsaw is a character in this book? How does it serve to represent the Polish people? In what way might you argue that the zoo and the villa are characters in the book?

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