This year marks the 70th anniversary of World War II’s end. Children’s books honor this milestone by presenting WWII stories of injustice, battles, hope and resilience in formats appropriate for various ages.
“Anne Frank’s Chestnut Tree” by Jane Kohuth, Illustrations by Elizabeth Sayles, 2013, 48 pages, ages 7-9.
Anne Frank’s story touches the hearts of all who know it. In this easy chapter book. Jane Kohuth whittles Anne’s story down to simple details so that young children can begin to understand the evils of prejudice and hate. Direct quotes from Anne’s diary add to the authenticity, while presenting Anne as real person with real feelings, rather than a storybook character. The unadorned text conveys Anne’s hopes about life and desires to be good and includes an afterward with a photograph of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.
“Dash” by Kirby Larson, 2014, Scholastic Press, 243 pages, ages 8-11.
Mitsi and her dog Dash are inseparable. But when the Kashino family is forced to leave their home for an incarceration camp with others of Japanese descent shortly after Japan’s attach on Pearl Harbor, the two are separated. Mitsi longs for her beloved dog and the security and traditions of her family in their home. This touching story provides a glimpse into the effects of WWII on United States citizens at home in a way appropriate for younger children.
“My Brother’s Secret” by Dan Smith, 2015, Chicken House, 304 pages, ages 8-12.
Many Germany citizens followed the Nazi’s rules and even revered Hitler. Twelve-year-old Karl Friedmann was a devoted member of Hitler’s Youth, young men who emulated Nazi beliefs and trained to be future military leaders. When tragedy strikes his family, more than once, Karl’s blind allegiance is shattered, and he begins to understand the true meaning of loyalty. Based on fact about Nazi resisters, this fictional work speaks of resilience and the bonds between those who seek goodness over evil.
“The Only Thing to Fear” by Caroline Tung Richmond, 2014, Scholastic Press, 280 pages, ages 13 and above.
Imagine a world where Adolph Hitler had the Nazis had been successful instead of defeated. In this debut novel, aimed at young adult readers, Carol Richmond creates a United States broken up into territories each ruled by the leaders of Germany, Japan, and Russia. An underground resistance movement seeks to defeat the Nazis, and their leader, a descendant of Hitler. Zara, 16, longs to avenge the death of her mother and join the Alliance rebels. Power, violence, and death are a daily part of Zara’s life, which seems hopeless until she meets others who share her passionate hatred of the Nazis. Together they seek to reclaim a portion of the United States and return this territory to its former glory.
“Annexed” by Sharon Dogar, 2010, Houghton Mifflin, 341 pages, ages 13 and above.
Peter Van Pels is the boy in Anne Frank’s thoughts and words, as portrayed in her famous diary description of eight Jews in hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam during World War II. Many around the world know Anne’s story of seclusion, but Sharon Dogar has created this work of historical fiction to imagine Peter’s story. Life’s dreams and doubts expressed by Peter cut across time and place, making the story one of universal appeal.
“Hitler’s Last Days” by Bill O’Reilly, 2015, Henry Holt and Company, 306 pages, ages 12 and above.
Although World War II raged for six years, Bill O’Reilly’s account focuses on the details of the last months of the war, beginning with preparations for the Battle of the Bulge, up through the end of the war, death of Hitler, and reading of his will. O’Reilly’s writing style is fresh and readable, giving unique perspective to a topic already described by many historical scholars and novelists. Although targeted for young adult readers, adults will also appreciate the attention to detail and humanness given to military leaders, both German and Allied.
“Battle of the Bulge” by Rick Atkinson, 2015, Henry Holt, 237 pages, ages 13 and above.
The Battle of the Bulge, beginning December 16, 1944, served as the final, desperate attempt of the Germans to defeat the Allied forces. Pulitzer Prize winner, Rick Atkinson, makes history come alive through detailed, yet readable, descriptions of military strategy, and the words and actions of the servicemen on both sides of the deadly battle line.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Dobler