Books for Veterans Day and Remembrance Day Reading

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. 

Ages 4-8

Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion
By Jane Barclay
Illustrated by Renné Benoit
24 Pages | Ages 4-6 | Ebook
ISBN 9781770491274 | Tundra Books
Much has been written about war and remembrance, but very little of it has been for young children. As questions come from a young grandchild, his grandpa talks about how, as a very young man, he was as proud as a peacock in uniform, busy as a beaver on his Atlantic crossing, and brave as a lion charging into battle. Soon, the old man’s room is filled with an imaginary menagerie as the child thinks about different aspects of wartime. But as he pins medals on his grandpa’s blazer and receives his own red poppy in return, the mood becomes more somber.

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.

Ages 9-12

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.

War Is Over
By David Almond
Illustrated by David Litchfield
128 Pages | Ages 9-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536209860 | Candlewick
It’s 1918, and war is everywhere. John’s father is fighting in the trenches far away in France, while his mother works in a menacing munitions factory just along the road. His teacher says that John is fighting, too, that he is at war with enemy children in Germany. One day, in the wild woods outside town, John has an impossible moment: a dreamlike meeting with a German boy named Jan. John catches a glimpse of a better world, in which children like Jan and himself can one day scatter the seeds of peace. David Almond brings his ineffable sensibility to a poignant tale of the effects of war on children, interwoven with David Litchfield’s gorgeous black-and-white illustrations.

Ages 10+

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.

Broken Strings
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.

Secret Soldiers: How the U.S. Twenty-Third Special Troops Fooled the Nazis
By Paul B. Janeczko
304 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780763681531 | Candlewick
In his third book about deception during war, Paul B. Janeczko focuses his lens on World War II and the operations carried out by the Twenty-Third Headquarters Special Troops, aka the Ghost Army. This remarkable unit included actors, camouflage experts, sound engineers, painters, and set designers who used their skills to secretly and systematically replace fighting units — fooling the Nazi army into believing what their eyes and ears told them, even though the sights and sounds of tanks, war machines and troops were entirely fabricated. Follow the Twenty-Third into Europe as they play a dangerous game of enticing the German army into making battlefield mistakes by using sonic deceptions, inflatable tanks, pyrotechnics and camouflage in more than twenty operations. From the Normandy invasion to the crossing of the Rhine River, the men of the Ghost Army — several of whom went on to become famous artists and designers after the war — played an improbable role in the Allied victory.

The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War
By Various 
Illustrated by Jim Kay
304 Pages | Ages 10+ | Paperback
ISBN 9781536208863 | Candlewick
A toy soldier. A butter dish. A compass. Mundane objects, perhaps, but to the remarkable authors in this collection, artifacts such as these have inspired stories that go to the heart of the human experience of World War I. Each author was invited to choose an object that had a connection to the war — a writing kit for David Almond, a helmet for Michael Morpurgo — and use it as the inspiration for an original short story. What results is an extraordinary collection, illustrated throughout by award-winning Jim Kay, and featuring photographs of the objects with accounts of their history and the authors’ reasons for selecting them. This unique anthology provides young readers with a personal window into the Great War and the people affected by it, and serves as an invaluable resource for families and teachers alike.

The War to End All Wars: The Story of World War I
By Jack Batten
160 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780887768798 | Tundra Books
In this riveting account of a tragic episode in world history, author Jack Batten takes readers through a far bloodier conflict than mankind had ever before endured. Meet the soldiers who fought the deadly battles along the Western Front. Follow the trail of flying ace Billy Bishop as he tangles in the air with the Red Baron. Learn the strategy of Britain’s Grand Fleet of warships as it heads into the biggest sea battle in history. Discover how civilians decoded virtually all the messages the Germans sent to their ships around the world.

Voices from the Second World War: Stories of War as Told to Children of Today
By Candlewick Press
320 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Paperback
ISBN 9781536208856 | Candlewick 
The Second World War was the most devastating war in history. Up to eighty million people died, and the map of the world was redrawn. More than seventy years after peace was declared, children interviewed family and community members to learn about the war from people who were there, to record their memories before they were lost forever. Now, in a unique collection, RAF pilots, evacuees, resistance fighters, Land Girls, U.S. Navy sailors, and survivors of the Holocaust and the Hiroshima bombing all tell their stories, passing on the lessons learned to a new generation. Featuring many vintage photographs, this moving volume also offers an index of contributors and a glossary.

Ages 12+

Orphan Monster Spy
By Matt Killeen
448 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780451478757 | Viking BFYR
After her mother is shot at a checkpoint, fifteen-year-old Sarah finds herself on the run from the Nazis in Third Reich-ruled Germany. While trying to escape, Sarah meets a mysterious man with an ambiguous accent, a suspiciously bare apartment, and a lockbox full of weapons. He’s part of the secret resistance against the Reich, and he needs her help. Sarah is to hide in plain sight at a boarding school for the daughters of top Nazi brass, posing as one of them. She must befriend the daughter of a key scientist to gain access to the blueprints for a bomb that could destroy the cities of Western Europe, and steal them. Sarah may look like the rest of the girls, innocent, blonde-haired, and young, but she refuses to become one of the monsters she’s surrounded by. She’s a brilliant con artist, convincing them she’s one of them even as she lives in terror of being found out. And she’s determined to get her revenge on them all.

The Blossom and the Firefly
By Sherri L. Smith
320 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781524737900 | Putnam BFYR
Japan 1945. Taro is a talented violinist and a kamikaze pilot in the days before his first and only mission. He believes he is ready to die for his country . . . until he meets Hana. Hana hasn’t been the same since the day she was buried alive in a collapsed trench during a bomb raid. She wonders if it would have been better to have died that day . . . until she meets Taro. Here, with achingly beautiful prose, Smith weaves a tale of love in the face of death, of hope in the face of tragedy, set against a backdrop of the waning days of the Pacific War.

The Emperor of Any Place
By Tim Wynne-Jones
336 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780763694425 | Candlewick
Evan, overwhelmed and bereaved by his father’s sudden death, doesn’t know what to make of the hand-bound yellow book his dad had been reading when he passed away. Why was his father reading the diary of a Japanese soldier stranded on a small Pacific island during World War II? What is in this account that Evan’s estranged grandfather fears — and will he really do anything, even hurt his own grandson, to prevent it from being seen? In this riveting, time-shifting story within a story, the ghosts of war reverberate across hemispheres and generations.

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 Red Ribbon
By Lucy Adlington
288 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536201048 | Candlewick
Three weeks after being detained on her way home from school, fourteen-year-old Ella finds herself in the Upper Tailoring Studio, a sewing workshop inside a Nazi concentration camp. There, two dozen skeletal women toil over stolen sewing machines. They are the seamstresses of Birchwood, stitching couture dresses for a perilous client list: wives of the camp’s Nazi overseers and the female SS officers who make prisoners’ lives miserable. It is a workshop where stylish designs or careless stitches can mean life or death. And it is where Ella meets Rose. As thoughtful and resilient as the dressmakers themselves, Rose and Ella’s story is one of courage, desperation, and hope — hope as delicate and as strong as silk, as vibrant as a red ribbon in a sea of gray.

Remembrance Day Reading

This week, students from across the country will be reflecting on war and the sacrifices made by men and women on the front lines and the home front. Here are some titles to help contextualize the First and Second World Wars.

PICTURE BOOKS

Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion
By Jane Barclay
Illustrated by Renné Benoit
ISBN 9781770491274 | Ebook
Ages 4-6 | 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. 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. This unforgettable goat and the platoon that loved him will capture your heart!

Sergeant Billy: The True Story of the Goat Who Went to War
By Mireille Messier
Illustrated by Kass Reich
ISBN 9780735264427 | Hardcover
Ages 4-8 | 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. 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. This unforgettable goat and the platoon that loved him will capture your heart!

MIDDLE GRADE

Innocent Heroes: Stories of Animals in the First World War
By Sigmund Brouwer
ISBN 9781101918463 | Hardcover
Ages 9-12 | 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

Broken Strings
By Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer
ISBN 9780735266247 | Hardcover
Ages 10-14 | Puffin Canada
It’s 2002. In the aftermath of the twin towers — and the death of her beloved grandmother — 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.

NON-FICTION

A Soldier’s Sketchbook: The Illustrated First World War Diary of R.H. Rabjohn
By John Wilson
Illustrated by R.H. Rabjohn
ISBN 9781770498549 | Hardcover
Ages 10+ | Tundra Books
A unique First World War diary, illustrated with more than a hundred stunning pencil sketches, for children learning history and also for adults interested in a new perspective on the War and authentic wartime artefacts.

The War to End All Wars: The Story of World War I
By Jack Batten
ISBN 9780887768798 | Hardcover
Ages 10+ | Tundra Books
In this riveting account of a tragic episode in world history, author Jack Batten takes readers through a far bloodier conflict than mankind had ever before endured. Meet the soldiers who fought the deadly battles along the Western Front. Follow the trail of flying ace Billy Bishop as he tangles in the air with the Red Baron. Learn the strategy of Britain’s Grand Fleet of warships as it heads into the biggest sea battle in history. Discover how civilians decoded virtually all the messages the Germans sent to their ships around the world.

We Remember

elephants

“Poppa,” I whisper, “why are you crying?”
“I am remembering,” he says. “A war is something you never forget.”
“Elephants never forget,” I tell him.
“Then let’s be elephants,” he says.
A soft rain falls as a bugler trumpets his notes up into the cold, gray sky. We link our hands and bow our heads.

Remembering Our Veterans

Introduce the very young to Remembrance Day and Veterans’ Day and what it means:

Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a LionProud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion
Written by Jane Barclay
Illustrated by Renné Benoit
ISBN 978-0-88776-951-1
Ages 4-7 | 24 Pages | Hardcover

A gentle, lyrical, new book about war and remembrance. Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion is a special book that will put very young readers on the path to remembrance and lasting appreciation for those who sacrificed and risked their lives in service to their country.

“… a perfect choice for read alouds on Veteran’s Day. It explains why we honor veterans very succinctly and makes perfect sense – a serious but easily understood title.” – Chasing Ray

“… a quiet, loving dialogue between the generations punctuated with vividly realized war scenes. …makes a statement about heroism. …a tight narrative, rich language, a strong story arc….” – Feature Review, Quill & Quire

“…meaningful and engaging…. Barclay has taken on an important topic in an effective and touching way.… There is a lovely rhythm to the prose that would make this a perfect choice by parents and teachers to read-aloud. The text is complemented beautifully with Benoit’s artwork rendered in watercolours and gouache…. Highly Recommended.” – CM Magazine

“Small photos in sepia shades evoke the past in images… the lively animal images in the words are also part of the pictures. …The blend of grim reality, heroic battle, and playful fantasy will speak to kids.” – Booklist

For older readers, a concise history of World War I:

The War to End All Wars - The Story of World War IThe War to End All Wars: The Story of World War I
Written by Jack Batten
ISBN 978-0-88776-879-8
Ages 10+ | 160 Pages | Hardcover

Meet the soldiers who fought the deadly battles on the Western Front. Follow the trail of flying ace Billy Bishop as he tangles in the air with the Red Baron. The War to End All Wars evokes the heroism and suffering of the men from every country, whose stories changed the face of the world forever.

“…Batten’s account is a model of lucidity, a good place for a young reader to start. Batten’s clean, intelligent prose makes this highly readable and comprehensible….” – The Toronto Star

“This superb book – with its high production values and a multitude of archival photographs, it’s as handsome as it is informative – belongs in every school library and on every family bookshelf. [Jack Batten] makes history vivid, almost palpable, for readers of any age…. Batten’s elegant prose tracks the broad sweep of the war…. The quality that makes this book the outstanding achievement that it is, though, it Batten’s detail-rich delineation of the particular, the depth of his reach into a character, an incident or a battle….” – The Globe and Mail

For middle-grade readers, a novel of danger, warmth, and dark humour:

Watching JimmyWatching Jimmy
By Nancy Hartry
ISBN 978-0-88776-871-2
Ages 9+ | 160 Pages | Hardcover

A novel of danger, warmth, and dark humour – set in 1958, Watching Jimmy is a brilliant portrait of a time past, a family of strong women, and a resourceful young girl who exudes character, resilience, and most of all, love.

“Like a steady beat that pulses louder and louder, the story unfolds against a backdrop of postwar social and political concerns and Remembrance Day. Carolyn is a passionate and feisty character, delineated with love and precision, and readers will be drawn to her. A compelling and satisfying novel.” – School Library Journal

“…this short tale of a Canadian preteen whose life centers around protecting her brain-damaged friend recalls … it’s not until she falls in with some wise and savvy adults at a new church that she gains the confidence she needs to blow the whistle—which she does in the course of a passionate Remembrance Day speech arguing for universal health care. … [an] absorbing read.” – Booklist

“…lyrical language…. The book gives a picture of what it was like living in the post-World War II Canada. Readers will be drawn into the gripping story and will worry about the safely of both Jimmy and Carolyn.” – VOYA

“Hartry… has perfectly captured this determined child’s voice and vividly recreates the setting of Toronto in 1958. It’s not hard to connect the dots … which brings the story home to modern readers. As Carolyn encounters one nearly overwhelming challenge after another, they will find her ultimately optimistic tale impossible to put down.” – Kirkus Reviews

Please take time to remember today.