The Center for Children's Books

Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
WWII through the Eyes of Young People - March 2012

Selected and annotated by Katie Boucher, Anna Holland, and Zoe Weinstein

In honor of Carol Fisher Saller’s visit to the Center for Children’s Books, we have selected and annotated some of the most recent and recommended books for and about young people and World War II, much like Saller’s own work, Eddie’s War.

Aronson, Marc, ed. War Is . . . : Soldiers, Survivors, and Storytellers Talk about War. Candlewick, 2008. 200p. Gr. 8-12.
What makes a teenager decide to become a soldier? In this collection of essays, testimonies, and various fictional and factual narratives, Aronson explores the motivations, consequences, and conflicting perspectives that surround the concept of war and the realities of history’s most memorable and devastating wars, explained for a young adult audience.

Cooper, Michelle. The FitzOsbornes at War. Knopf, 2012. 552p. Gr. 7-10.
It is 1939 and England has just declared war on Germany. Sophie and her royal family have been in exile and are now forced to abandon their life of comfort and luxury to join the war effort. Told through Sophie’s journal entries, the family experiences World War II on all fronts, creating a realistic and devastating account of World War II as seen through the eyes of a teenager.

Cooper, Michelle. The FitzOsbornes in Exile. Knopf, 2011. 464p. Gr. 7–10.
Forced from their island home of Montmaray by a Nazi invasion, Sophie and her siblings and cousins are taken in by their Aunt Charlotte, whose sole focus is marrying them off to nobility. Determined to take back Montmaray from the Germans and combat spreading Fascism, Sophie and her fellow Montmaray royals struggle to balance the pressures of English high society and the looming threat of war.

Couloumbis, Audrey. War Games. Random House, 2009. 232p. Gr. 6-9.
Brothers Petros and Zola are living in Greece in 1941 when the Nazis invade and overtake their small village.  Having spent a short time living in America, the boys’ family struggles to hide their American affiliations and cousin who fights for the Greek Resistance from the Germans. Typical “boys’ games” are transformed into “war games” as the young characters are faced with the violence and deception of real war.

Davis, Tanita S. Mare's War. Knopf, 2009. 341p. Gr. 7-10.
Octavia and Tali’s idea of a great summer could not be further from their reality. Forced on a cross-country road trip with their grandmother Mare, the girls have the opportunity to hear about her unique experiences as a part of the Women’s Army in World War II. Traveling to the war’s front lines in Europe, Mare’s time in the 6888th African American Battalion offers readers a rare insight into a realm of WWII that is underrepresented. 

Morpurgo, Michael. An Elephant in the Garden. Feiwel, 2011. 199p. Gr. 5-7.
Living in Dresden, Germany in 1945, fifteen-year-old Lizzie is aghast to hear that some of the animals at her mother’s zoo are going to be killed, for fear they will run rampant if Allied forces bomb the area. When her mother rescues an elephant from the zoo, Lizzie’s family welcomes a new member. Their joy is fleeting, however, when Dresden is bombed and Lizzie and her family are forced to flee their home and encounter the perils of war on their journey to safety.

Patt, Beverly. Best Friends Forever: A World War II Scrapbook. Cavendish, 2010. 92p. Gr. 5-7.
Fourteen-year-old Louise Krueger creates a scrapbook to document all the many moments that her best friend Dottie, a Japanese American, will miss after she and her family are relocated from their home in Washington to the Puyallup internment facility during WWII. Dottie’s letters, Louise’s commentary, and ordinary everyday mementoes combine to tell several interweaving stories of friendship and the darkness of war as viewed from a child’s perspective.

Pearsall, Shelley. Jump Into the Sky. Knopf, 2012. 344p. Gr. 5-9.
In May 1945, thirteen-year-old Levi Battle has no place to turn except his absent father, Second Lt. Charles Battle, serving his post in North Carolina for the U.S. Army as a “colored” paratrooper. Levi is a day too late, however, and his journey to reunite with his father extends from Chicago to Jim Crow South to Oregon in the company of another young black paratrooper. Based on the experiences of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, Pearson writes a novel about love and courage and the rumblings of war on the home front. 

Preus, Margi. Shadow on the Mountain. Amulet/Abrams, 2012. 286p. Gr. 5–8.
Espen and his teammates are fourteen years old when Nazis invade Norway. As the occupation lasts longer, Espen notices disturbing changes amongst his friends. Determined to resist, Espen becomes a courier for an illegal newspaper that tells the truth about the occupation. Soon Espen finds himself carrying secret messages, dodging the Gestapo, and knowing more about the covert networks than any Nazi or Resistance worker. History buffs will especially enjoy the fact that Espen’s character has a real-life counterpart—Erling Storrusten.

Saller, Carol Fisher. Eddie’s War. Namelos, 2011. 194p. Gr. 5-8.
As the frightening realities of World War II threaten to disturb his quiet life in rural Illinois, Eddie Carl watches as his own family and community are directly affected by the war, while also struggling with the complications of adolescence and the new ways in which his life will soon be upturned. Told in verse and through a series of epistolary entries that span Eddie’s growth from a child to a young man, Eddie’s War offers an insightful and unique perspective on the ways wartime can shape a young person’s understanding of life and the true nature of others. 

Smith, Sherri L. Flygirl. Putnam, 2009. 288p. Gr. 7-12.
Ida Mae has aspirations of being a pilot with a purpose. When World War II begins and there is a call for Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, Ida is faced with a dilemma for which she was never trained. Being a young African American female, Ida is technically not eligible to fly. Having fairly light skin, however, allows Ida to pass for a white girl but also requires an abandonment of her strong sense of self and culture – a sacrifice that she may not be prepared to make.  

Voorhoeve, Anne C. My Family for the War. Dial, 2012. 400p. Gr. 6-10.
When her father is arrested and sent to a concentration camp, young Franziska Mangold is separated from her parents and forced to emigrate from her Berlin home to the safety of a foster family in London during World War II. Despite being raised Protestant, Franziska and her family’s Jewish heritage create the sense of danger and urgency that surround her escape. Renaming her Francis while still educating her in the traditional ways of her Jewish religion, Franziska’s new family provides her with a safe and, yet, unfamiliar situation in which to wait for the war’s end and, hopefully, the reunion with her family.

Wein, Elizabeth. Code Name Verity. Hyperion, 2012. 343p. Gr. 9-12.
Verity is a British spy who has been captured by the Germans and forced into captivity during World War II. Through a series of coded letters, Verity reveals the convoluted nature of her mission, as well as memorable experiences she shared with her best friend, transportation pilot Maddie, whom she fears to be dead. Even the reader doesn’t know who to trust or what to believe in this clever and evocative historical thriller of friendship and the trials of war.