Veteran’s Day is November 11. Stories of war help us to understand the veterans’ experiences, along with the heroic and horrific aspects of history. Fiction and nonfiction accounts of war can teach children lessons about history that can be applied to today. A word of caution though: because of the violent nature of war, some of the books suggested here do have some details that may be disturbing to young or sensitive children.
“Dogs of War” by Sheila Keenan , Illustrated by Nathan Fox, Graphix, 2013, ages 10 and up, 197 pages.
Throughout history dogs have played a role of service to military troops. This graphic novel uses a comic book-style to share the stories of three dogs, three masters, and three wars: World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War. Readers will be riveted to these stories of bravery and valor on the part of men and dogs.
“A True Patriot” by Barry Denenberg, Scholastic, 2012, ages 10 and up, 160 pages.
Written in a journal style, this story follows William Thomas Emerson, a 12 year old boy, and his search for a place to belong during the years leading up to the Revolutionary War. He finds this place in a Boston lodge and tavern, where he works to earn his keep. Will is a sharp young lad. He listens close and watches even more closely. Soon he is asked to help the Patriots in their fight against King George. Intrigue and danger test Will’s devotion to his newfound family. Through this book, the author hopes to “bring the revolution to life by showing how it affected ordinary people and how they affected it”. This compelling story of a boy’s involvement in a man’s war does just that.
“Vietnam: I Pledge Allegiance” by Chris Lynch, Scholastic, 2011, ages 11 and up, 183 pages.
“I Pledge Allegiance” is the first book in a series of four that chronicle the Vietnam War experiences of four childhood friends who make a pact that if one is drafted, they all will join the war. In this book, readers meet Morris, the quiet, strong one of the quartet. He joins the Navy, stationed aboard the USS Boston, and journals about the war and his unyielding sense of responsibility to watch over his friends both near and far. Lynch’s book touches on many of the issues surrounding the relevance and futility of the Vietnam War, although the focus is on Morris and his daily struggles to keep himself and others alive.
“Will at the Battle of Gettysburg 1863” by Laurie Calkhoven, 2012, Dutton Children’s Books, 230 pages, ages 10 and up.
Twelve-year-old Will longs to be a part of the excitement and action of the Civil War, even trying to enlist as a drummer boy against his parents’ wishes. All too soon Will has the opportunity to experience the horrors of a battle right in the midst of his hometown, Gettysburg. Will sees first-hand the injury and death that war can bring, while also getting the opportunity to show his own loyalty to the Union cause. This book is part of the Boys of Wartime series and, although fiction, the final portion of the book contains factual information about life during wartime and a timeline of the Civil War.
“World War II” by Sean Callery, 2013, Scholastic, 112 pages, ages 10 and up.
Described as a visual history of the world’s darkest days, this informational book about World War II contains timelines, maps, photographs, and drawings with captions, and graphs. Short bits of text and a collection of many images work together to present a detailed snapshot of life before, during, and after the war. A companion digital book is available for free download to a PC or Mac, which contains extended information.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Dobler