Talking About Tough Times: World War Two Books

The busy back-to-school month of September also marks the anniversary of the beginning of World War II, which started on September 1st 1939 when Germany invaded Poland causing Britain and France to declare war on Germany two days later. Most of us know of the more prominent young adult and children’s titles dealing with this topic such as Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl [Undergrad DS135.N6 F73313 2010], Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars [SSHEL S-Collection S. L9551n], and even the more recentThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak [SSHEL S-Collection S. Z89b]. However, these are just a few titles within an enormous body of work written for children on the many different aspects and events of WWII. The titles presented below are a small sampling of the huge number of books that the library holds on this topic. To find more WWII titles in our collection try searching “World War, 1939-1945” as a subject term. If you want only fictional works for children add the keyword “juvenile fiction” to your search and for non-fiction use the keyword “juvenile literature.”

Picture Books

Johnson, Angela.
Wind Flyers. 2007.
A boy’s love of flight takes him on a journey from the dusty dirt roads of Alabama to the war-torn skies of Europe. Introduces young readers to the contributions of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books S. J631wi]

Mochizuki, Ken.
Baseball Saved Us. 1993.
A Japanese American boy learns to play baseball when he and his family are forced to live in an internment camp during World War II, and his ability to play helps him after the war is over.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books Q. S. M715b]

Polacco, Patricia.
The Butterfly. 2000.
During the Nazi occupation of France, Monique’s mother hides a Jewish family in her basement and tries to help them escape to freedom.
[SSHEL S-Collection Q. S. P756b]

Intermediate Fiction

Don’t You Know There’s a War On? 2001.
In wartime Brooklyn in 1943, eleven-year-old Howie Crispers mounts a campaign to save his favorite teacher from being fired.
[SSHEL S-Collection S. Av51do]

Kadohata, Cynthia.
Weedflower. 2006.
After twelve-year-old Sumiko and her Japanese-American family are relocated from their flower farm in southern California to an internment camp on a Mojave Indian reservation in Arizona, she helps her family and neighbors, becomes friends with a local Indian boy, and tries to hold on to her dream of owning a flower shop.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books S. K116w]

Lisle, Janet Taylor.
The Art of Keeping Cool. 2000.
In 1942, Robert and his cousin Elliot uncover long-hidden family secrets while staying in their grandparents’ Rhode Island town, where they also become involved with a German artist who is suspected of being a spy.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books S. L689ar]

Morpurgo, Michael.
An Elephant in the Garden. 2011.
Elizabeth’s mother works at Dresden Zoo in 1944, where her favorite animal is an elephant named Marlene. When the zoo director tells her the dangerous animals must be shot to prevent them running amok when the town is bombed, Elizabeth’s mother moves Marlene into the back garden to save her. And then the bombs start to fall…
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books S. M829e]

Peck, Richard.
On the Wings of Heroes. 2007.
A boy in Illinois remembers the home front years of World War II, especially his two heroes–his brother in the Air Force and his father, who fought in the previous war.
[SSHEL S-Collection S. P336o]

Preus, Margi.
Shadow on the Mountain. 2012.
In Nazi-occupied Norway, fourteen-year-old Espen joins the resistance movement, graduating from deliverer of illegal newspapers to courier and spy.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books S. P928s]

Young Adult

Boyne, John.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. 2006.
Bored and lonely after his family moves from Berlin to a place called “Out-With” in 1942, Bruno, the son of a Nazi officer, befriends a boy in striped pajamas who lives behind a wire fence.
[SSHEL S-Collection S. B71b]

Bruchac, Joseph.
Code Talker: A Novel about the Navajo Marines of World War Two. 2005.
After being taught in a boarding school run by whites that Navajo is a useless language, Ned Begay and other Navajo men are recruited by the Marines to become Code Talkers, sending messages during World War II in their native tongue.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books S. B833co]

Dowswell, Paul.
The Auslander. 2011.
German soldiers take Peter from a Warsaw orphanage, and soon he is adopted by Professor Kaltenbach, a prominent Nazi, but Peter forms his own ideas about what he sees and hears and decides to take a risk that is most dangerous in 1942 Berlin.
[SSHEL S-Collection S. D769a]

Peet, Mal.
Tamar. 2007.
In England in 1995, fifteen-year-old Tamar, grief-stricken by the puzzling death of her beloved grandfather, slowly begins to uncover the secrets of his life in the Dutch resistance during the last year of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, and the climactic events that forever cast a shadow on his life and that of his family
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books S. P347t, Uni High Fiction P347t]

Sepetys, Ruth.
Between Shades of Gray. 2011.
In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina, her mother, and brother are pulled from their Lithuanian home by Soviet guards and sent to Siberia, where her father is sentenced to death in a prison camp while she fights for her life, vowing to honor her family and the thousands like hers by telling her story.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books S. Se61b, Uni High Fiction Se61b]

Wein, Elizabeth.
Code Name Verity. 2012.
In 1943, a British fighter plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France and the survivor tells a tale of friendship, war, espionage, and great courage as she relates what she must to survive while keeping secret all that she can.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books S. W432cn, Uni High Fiction W43c]


Adams, Simon.
World War II. 2000.
Beginning with the events that led to its outbreak, this book goes on to introduce the main leaders and highlight the decisive moments of World War II. From Pearl Harbor, Midway, and the Atlantic to fighting in Russia and in the desert, outstanding and original photography provides a unique glimpse of the tragedies that led to the loss of more than 50 million lives.
[SSHEL S-Collection Q. S. 940.53 Ad19w]

Colman, Penny.
Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Home Front in World War II. 1995.
When America’s men went off to war in 1942, millions of women were recruited, through posters and other propaganda, to work at non-traditional jobs. Based on interviews and original research by noted historian Penny Colman, Rosie the Riveter shows young readers how women fought World War II from the home front.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books S. 331.40973 C71r, Undergrad HD6095. C64 1995]

Morrison, Joan.
Home Front Girl. 2013.
This is the diary of a smart, astute, and funny teenager, making a record of what an everyday American girl thought and felt during the Depression and the lead-up to World War II.
[SSHEL S-Collection SB. M8342m]

Russo, Marisabina.
Always Remember Me: How One Family Survived World War II. 2005.
After many years during which her grandmother skirted the issue, a young girl finally hears the story of how several of her female relatives survived the Holocaust.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books Q. S. 940.53 R921a]

Sheinkin, Steve.
Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon. 2012.
Recounts the scientific discoveries that enabled atom splitting, the military intelligence operations that occurred in rival countries, and the work of brilliant scientists hidden at Los Alamos.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books S. 623.45119 Sh42b, Uni High 623.45119 Sh42b]

Prepared by:
Anna Logan
Graduate Student
Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign