There are many stories about World War II. The most well-known biography is probably Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl. But there are many other memorable true stories for students to read:
The Guest Children by Geoffrey Bilson (Fifth House, 1988)
Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine (Toronto Second Story Press, 2002)
Kinderlager: An Oral History of Young Holocaust Survivors by Milton J. Nieuwsma (Scholastic, 1998)
No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War by Anita Lobel (New York Avon Books, 2000)
Tell No One Who You Are by Walter Buchignani (Tundra Books, 1994)
The Tunnel King by Barbara Hehner (HarperCollins Canada, 2004)
Rose Blanche by Roberto Innocenti (MIN Creative Edition, 1985) and How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008) are two picture books about the experiences of young children during the war.
Daniel’s Story by Carol Matas (Scholastic, 1993) and Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (Dell, 1989) are the two novels most often mentioned by students when asked what stories they have read about World War II. But there are many, many more novels for school-aged readers, some of which are listed on this page: War.
Reviews and Responses!
What World is Left by Monique Polak (Orca Book Publishers, 2008) is the story of Anneke, a Jewish girl who lives in a model concentration camp. Anneke finds love with a boy who eventually is sent on the dreadful transports, but that’s not enough for Anneke to give up on life and let the Nazis win. As the years go on, she faces many obstacles. Anneke knows that the Holocaust is ending soon but as many more transports come in with tons of Jews with deadly diseases, she just might find the end, not of the Holocaust, but her life! Will Anneke survive and be happy once again with her family? Or will she have to say good bye forever? (Ashley in grade eight)
I Had Seen Castles by Cynthia Rylant (HarperCollins, 1993). Going to die, going to die, he thought. Sounds of bombs, screams, and death fill the air as a young 18 year old man named John takes on the war. Taking place in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania in 1939, John is 16 years old and living a normal life until the Japanese army attacks Pittsburg. Buildings are demolished and there are many dead. The “18 and older” war sign-ups are posted throughout the town. John’s friend Tony can’t wait until his 18th birthday so he can use guns and be of help his country. John fears the day that he turns 18 as he is fearing death.
Two years later, as he tripped off the bus, John sees the prettiest girl in school: Ginny. She is of medium build with dark black hair, brown eyes and as John puts it, ” drop dead gorgeous “. Ginny gives John a hand up, they meet and decide to walk home together. John has no clue what to say until Ginny turns away to take a separate road home. John rushes to ask her out to a movie, he gives a big sigh as Ginny simply replies, “Yes”. When John goes to pick Ginny up at her house to go to the movies, he knocks on the door and Ginny’s mother answers the door. She tells John that “Ginny isn’t ready and she’s in her room”. John steps inside and is surprised to learn that they are actually living in a storage unit and Ginny’s room is a closet. John feels embarrassed for the family and sad for Ginny. John’s friend has already joined the army and is on the first bus out. John is puzzled with his friend Tony’s decision. Why go to war and get shot, injured or possibly die? Only one good thing can come from war, a free country. John is scared for his friend and fears his death. After dating Ginny for only two months they fall deeply in love. They want to spend the rest of their lives together. At one point John will have to bring up that terrible word …….. WAR!! John asks Ginny out on their sixth date and they are having a great conversation until John suddenly blurts out the word “war”! “What?” asks Ginny. “War” she yells. They argue for hours until restaurant closing time about whether or not John should go to war. John faces the biggest conflict of his life, whether to go to war and serve his country and be a hero, or to be safe and stay at home and be considered a coward. Two days later, John gets a call from the sergeant saying his close friend Tony has been killed. John feels a part of him has died. Ginny and John decide to separate over the phone and John registers for the war. They agree that after John serves his time in the war, they would find each other marry and move to Paris.
John is on his way to his station on the bus, he arrives at his camp. He is assigned a bed, a very uncomfortable bed. He drops his belongings on the rock hard mattress then sits down and cries. On John’s first day on the battlefield, he already can’t stand the smell and the sounds. Lying down in a trench, watching men beside him being blown away by the explosions. All he hears are gunshots, yells and screams.
One year later, after serving his time at war, John came home to Pittsburg and began looking for Ginny. His search lasted for 8 years, then in 1953 he moved to Paris by himself. Would John ever find the love of his life again? Will he live out his time in Paris alone without Ginny?
I enjoyed this book very much, and I found it to be one of the best books I have ever read. I give this book a 10 out of 10. If you like historic war stories, action and romance, I suggest I Had Seen Castles by Cynthia Rylant. (Jayson in grade 6)
My class is currently doing a novel study on a book by Carol Matas: Daniel’s Story. It is about a Jew going through the Holocaust and has details of what was done to Jews and facts that I can guarantee you never knew. This story will keep you wanting more because Daniel and others must take constant risks to survive. Not everyone lives. This novel may be sad, but there are some happy parts. This novel is also full of determination, love and hope. It is very different from other books about children going through war. I DARE YOU to read it and see if you like it! (Laura in grade 7)