On November 11, we will celebrate Remembrance Day (Veterans Day in the USA). Here are some books that will help children and young adults reflect on war and the sacrifices made by men and women on the front lines and the home front.
Grace Banker and Her Hello Girls Answer the Call: The Heroic Story of WWI Telephone Operators
By Claudia Friddell
Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
40 Pages | Ages 7-10 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781684373505 | Calkins Creek
Follow Grace Banker’s journey from her busy life as a telephone switchboard trainer in New York to her pioneering role as the Chief Operator of the 1st Unit of World War I telephone operators in the battlefields of France. With expert skill, steady nerves, and steadfast loyalty, the Signal Corps operators transferred orders from commanders to battlefields and communicated top-secret messages between American and French headquarters. After faithfully serving her country – undaunted by freezing weather and fires; long hours and little sleep, and nearby shellings and far off explosions – Grace was the first and only woman operator in the Signal Corps to be awarded the Army’s Distinguished Service Medal.
Sergeant Billy: The True Story of the Goat Who Went to War
By Mireille Messier
Illustrated by Kass Reich
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264427 | Tundra Books
During World War I, a goat named Billy was adopted by a platoon of soldiers and made his way across the ocean to be part of the war effort. Billy trained with the soldiers, got snuck into the frontlines in a box of oranges, ate some secret documents and was arrested for treason, head-butted soldiers into a trench and saved them from a shell, and came back home a decorated war hero. This charming true story follows Sergeant Billy from his small prairie town to the trenches of World War I and back, through harrowing moments, sad moments, moments of camaraderie and moments of celebration.
Twenty-One Steps: Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
By Jeff Gottesfeld
Illustrated by Matt Tavares
32 Pages | Ages 7-10 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536201482 | Candlewick
Keeping vigil at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in Arlington National Cemetery, are the sentinel guards, whose every step, every turn, honors and remembers America’s fallen. They protect fellow soldiers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, making sure they are never alone. To stand there – with absolute precision, in every type of weather, at every moment of the day, one in a line uninterrupted since midnight July 2, 1937 – is the ultimate privilege and the most difficult post to earn in the army. Everything these men and women do is in service to the Unknowns. Their standard is perfection. Exactly how the unnamed men came to be entombed at Arlington, and exactly how their fellow soldiers have come to keep vigil over them, is a sobering and powerful tale, told by Jeff Gottesfeld and luminously illustrated by Matt Tavares – a tale that honors the soldiers who honor the fallen.
A Place to Hang the Moon
By Kate Albus
320 Pages | Ages 9-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823447053 | Margaret Ferguson Books
It is 1940 and William, Edmund, and Anna aren’t terribly upset by the death of the not-so-grandmotherly grandmother who has taken care of them since their parents died. But the children do need a guardian, and in the dark days of World War II London, those are in short supply, especially if they hope to stay together. Could the mass wartime evacuation of children from London to the countryside be the answer? It’s a preposterous plan, but off they go – keeping their predicament a secret, and hoping to be placed in a temporary home that ends up lasting forever. Moving from one billet to another, the children suffer the cruel trickery of foster brothers, the cold realities of outdoor toilets and the hollowness of empty stomachs. They find comfort in the village lending library, whose kind librarian, Nora Müller, seems an excellent choice of billet, except that her German husband’s whereabouts are currently unknown, and some of the villagers consider her unsuitable.
A Soldier’s Sketchbook: The Illustrated First World War Diary of R. H. Rabjohn
By John Wilson
112 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781770498549 | Tundra Books
Award-winning author John Wilson brings his skills as a historian and researcher to bear, carefully curating the diary to provide context and tell the story of Private Rabjohn’s war. He has selected each of the diary entries and the accompanying images, and has provided the background that modern-day readers need to understand what a young soldier went through a century ago. The result is a wonderfully detailed and dramatic account of the war as seen through an artist’s eyes.
By Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer
288 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Paperback
ISBN 9780735266261 | Puffin Canada
It’s 2002. In the aftermath of the twin towers, Shirli Berman is intent on moving forward. The best singer in her junior high, she auditions for the lead role in Fiddler on the Roof, but is crushed to learn that she’s been given the part of the old Jewish mother in the musical rather than the coveted part of the sister. But there is an upside: her “husband” is none other than Ben Morgan, the cutest and most popular boy in the school. Deciding to throw herself into the role, she rummages in her grandfather’s attic for some props. There, she discovers an old violin in the corner – strange, since her Zayde has never seemed to like music, never even going to any of her recitals. Showing it to her grandfather unleashes an anger in him she has never seen before, and while she is frightened of what it might mean, Shirli keeps trying to connect with her Zayde and discover the awful reason behind his anger. A long-kept family secret spills out, and Shirli learns the true power of music, both terrible and wonderful.
Innocent Heroes: Stories of Animals in the First World War
By Sigmund Brouwer
208 Pages | Ages 9-12 | Paperback
ISBN 9780735267978 | Tundra Books
Never before have the stories of animal war heroes been collected in such a special way. This book consists of eight connected fictional stories about a Canadian platoon in WW1. The Storming Normans have help from some very memorable animals: we meet a dog who warns soldiers in the trench of a gas attack, a donkey whose stubbornness saves the day, a cat who saves soldiers from rat bites, and many more. Each story is followed by nonfiction sections that tell the true story of these animals from around the world and of the Canadian soldiers who took Vimy Ridge. Through the friendship that grows between three of these soldiers in particular, we get a close-up look at life in the trenches, the taking of Vimy Ridge, the bonds between soldiers and their animals and what it meant to be Canadian in World War I.
By Davide Morosinotto
432 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984893321 | Delacorte BFYR
Twins Viktor and Nadya are twelve years old when Hitler’s Germany declares war on the Soviet Union. With little notice, the city’s children are evacuated on trains that are meant to take them to safety. Shockingly, Viktor and Nadya are separated, and disaster befalls them both. As the terrible conflict rages, each embarks on a desperate race across snow and ice, struggling through the destruction in an effort to be reunited. Their chances are slim, but they never lose hope. In an original format – using the kids’ diary entries, with historical photos, maps, and drawings throughout, this fictionalized account of the Nazi siege of Leningrad during the Second World War, this heart-stopping story of danger, courage and bravery emphasizes the power of truth and what it means to be a hero.
The Good War
By Todd Strasser
192 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593173657 | Delacorte BFYR
There’s a new afterschool club at Ironville Middle School. Ms. Peterson is starting a video game club where the students will playing The Good War, a new game based on World War II. They are divided into two teams: Axis and Allies, and they will be simulating a war they know nothing about yet. Only one team will win. But what starts out as friendly competition, takes an unexpected turn for the worst when an one player takes the game too far. Can an afterschool club change the way the students see each other . . . and how they see the world?
War and Millie McGonigle
By Karen Cushman
224 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984850102 | Knopf BFYR
Millie McGonigle lives in sunny California, where her days are filled with beach and surf. It should be perfect – but times are tough. Hitler is attacking Europe and it looks like the United States may be going to war. Food is rationed and money is tight. And Millie’s sickly little sister gets all the attention and couldn’t be more of a pain if she tried. It’s all Millie can do to stay calm and feel in control. Still–there’s sand beneath her feet. A new neighbor from the city, who has a lot to teach Millie. And surfer boy Rocky to admire – even if she doesn’t have the guts to talk to him. It’s a time of sunshine, siblings, and stress. Will Millie be able to find her way in her family, and keep her balance as the the world around her loses its own?
Last Witnesses: Adapted for Young Readers
By Svetlana Alexievich
288 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593308530 | Delacorte BFYR
Nobel Prize-winning writer Svetlana Alexievich delves into the traumatic memories of children who were separated from their parents during World War II – most of them never to be reunited – in this this young adult adaptation of her acclaimed nonfiction Last Witnesses: An Oral History of the Children of WWII. The personal narratives told by those who were children during WWII and survived harrowing experiences, are astounding. So many children were separated from their loved ones in the midst of the terror and chaos. As a result, some grew up in orphanages or were raised by grandparents or extended family; others were taken in and cared for by strangers who risked punishment for such acts. Still others lived on their own or became underage soldiers. Forthright and riveting, these bravely told oral histories of survival reveal the heart-rending details of life during wartime while reminding us that resilience is possible, no matter the circumstances.
The Enigma Game
By Elizabeth Wein
448 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735265288 | Penguin Teen Canada
A German soldier risks his life to drop off the sought-after Enigma Machine to British Intelligence, hiding it in a pub in a small town in northeast Scotland, and unwittingly bringing together four very different people who decide to keep it to themselves. Louisa Adair, a young teen girl hired to look after the pub owner’s elderly, German-born aunt, Jane Warner, finds it but doesn’t report it. Flight-Lieutenant Jamie Beaufort-Stuart intercepts a signal but can’t figure it out. Ellen McEwen, a volunteer at the local airfield, acts as the go-between and messenger after Louisa involves Jane in translating. The planes under Jamie’s command seem charmed, as Jamie knows where exactly to go, while other squadrons suffer, and the four are loathe to give up the machine, even after Elisabeth Lind from British Intelligence arrives, even after the Germans start bombing the tiny town.
The Woman All Spies Fear: Code Breaker Elizebeth Smith Friedman and Her Hidden Life
By Amy Butler Greenfield
336 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593127193 | Random House Studio
Elizebeth Smith Friedman had a rare talent for spotting patterns and solving puzzles. These skills led her to become one of the top cryptanalysts in America during both World War I and World War II. She originally came to code breaking through her love for Shakespeare when she was hired by an eccentric millionaire to prove that Shakespeare’s plays had secret messages in them. Within a year, she had learned so much about code breaking that she was a star in the making. She went on to play a major role decoding messages during WWI and WWII and also for the Coast Guard’s war against smugglers. Elizebeth and her husband, William, became the top code-breaking team in the US, and she did it all at a time when most women weren’t welcome in the workforce.
When You and I Collide
By Kate Norris
448 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593203033 | Philomel Books
Sixteen-year-old Winnie Schulde has always seen splits – the moment when two possible outcomes diverge, one in her universe and one in another. Multiverse theory, Winnie knows, is all too real, though she has never been anything but an observer of its implications – a secret she keeps hidden from just about everyone, as she knows the uses to which it might be put in the midst of a raging WWII. But her physicist father, wrapped up in his research and made cruel by his grief after the loss of Winnie’s mother, believes that if he pushes her hard enough, she can choose one split over another and maybe, just maybe, change their future and their past. Winnie is certain that her father’s theories are just that, so she plays along in an effort to placate him. Until one day, when her father’s experiment goes wrong and Scott, the kind and handsome lab assistant Winnie loves from afar, is seriously injured. Without meaning to, Winnie chooses the split where Scott is unharmed. And in doing so, finds herself pulled into another universe, an alternate reality. One that already has a Winnie.