On November 11, we 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.
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.
When Your Daddy’s a Soldier
By Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan
Illustrated by EG Keller
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593463901 | Viking BFYR
A lyrical, moving story about a family’s experience at home during their dad’s time away at war. For one young boy and his family at home, the days pass slowly. That’s because when your daddy’s a soldier and he’s away at war, you can’t wait for him to come home so you can be together again. This poignant and impactful story, inspired by the author’s lived experiences, captures the essence of the daily heartache, fear, joy, and uncertainty that a child whose parent has gone off to war must live with.
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.
History Smashers: Pearl Harbor
By Kate Messner
Illustrated by Dylan Meconis
224 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Paperback
ISBN 9780593120378 | Random House BFYR
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched a completely unpredictable attack on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Right? Well, that’s not quite the real deal. Some military experts had suggested that Pearl Harbor was a likely target. There were other warning signs, too, but nobody paid much attention. From the first wave of the Japanese bombers to the United States’ internment of thousands of Japanese Americans, acclaimed author Kate Messner smashes history by exploring the little-known truths behind the story of Pearl Harbor and its aftermath.
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.
Island of Spies
By Sheila Turnage
384 Pages | Ages 9-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735231252 | Dial Books
Twelve-year-old Stick Lawson lives on Hatteras Island, North Carolina, where life moves steady as the tides, and mysteries abound as long as you look really hard for them. Stick and her friends Rain and Neb are good at looking hard. They call themselves the Dime Novel Kids. And the only thing Stick wants more than a paying case for them to solve is the respect that comes with it. But on Hatteras, the tides are changing. World War II looms, curious newcomers have appeared on the small island, and in the waters off its shores, a wartime menace lurks that will upend Stick’s life and those of everyone she loves. The Dimes are about to face more mysteries than they ever could have wished for, and risk more than they ever could have imagined.
By Miriam Halahmy
112 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Paperback
ISBN 9780823446704 | Holiday House
What if you had to leave your dog behind when you fled? Rudi and his older sister Lotte have a chance to leave the dangers of Nazi Germany on a Kindertransport to England. However, he cannot bring Hanno, his wonderful dachshund. Luckily, his family finds a way to smuggle Hanno to London. But with England on the brink of war, Hanno is still not safe. As a German invasion of England becomes imminent, many British people decide their pets will suffer as well as drain limited resources, and thousands of pets are euthanized. To save Hanno, Rudi joins a group of scrappy London children who hide their pets away in a vacant lot. Just as London’s children are about to be evacuated to the countryside, the group finds a wealthy animal lover willing to care for the menagerie on her country estate. This fast-paced and accessible novel is full of courage and excitement.
The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA
By Brenda Woods
208 Pages | Ages 10+ | Paperback
ISBN 9781524737115 | Nancy Paulsen Books
For Gabriel Haberlin, life seems pretty close to perfect in the small southern town of Birdsong, USA. But on his twelfth birthday, his point of view begins to change. It all starts when he comes face-to-face with one of the worst drivers in town while riding his new bicycle – an accident that would have been tragic if Mr. Meriwether Hunter hadn’t been around to push him out of harm’s way. After the accident, Gabriel and Meriwether become friends when they both start working at Gabriel’s dad’s auto shop, and Meriwether lets a secret slip: He served in the army’s all-black 761st Tank Battalion in World War II. Soon Gabriel learns why it’s so dangerous for Meriwether to talk about his heroism in front of white people, and Gabriel’s eyes are finally opened to the hard truth about Birdsong – and his understanding of what it means to be a hero will never be the same.
By Adam Makos
368 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593481455 | Delacorte Press
Lieutenant Tom Hudner and Ensign Jesse Brown, both Navy pilots during the Korean War in 1950, come from different backgrounds: Hudner is a white New Englander, a son of privilege; Brown is an African American son of a sharecropper from Mississippi. When the two men join forces in Fighter Squadron 32, they forge a deep friendship at a time when racial inequality was prevalent in America. An unwavering commitment binds Tom and Jesse to each other as well as to their comrades. The two fly to save a division of US Marines cornered during the battle at Chosin Reservoir, but catastrophe strikes when one of them is shot down behind enemy lines and trapped in the wreckage of his plane. The other will face an unthinkable choice: watch their friend die, or attempt one of history’s most audacious one-man rescue missions. What transpires is harrowing and heartbreaking, an inspirational story for all time.
By Adam Makos
352 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593303450 | Delacorte Press
Shut the hatches. It’s time to roll out. You’ll find yourself behind enemy lines with Clarence Smoyer and the 3rd Armored Division, the workhorse unit known as “Spearhead,” the best in the tank armor ranks. You’ll feel as if you are right beside Clarence and his fellow crew members – all formerly strangers from across America who have now become family to each other. You will be jarred by enemy fire, and then explore the other side, stepping into the boots of German tanker soldier, Gustav Schaefer and his crew. You’ll witness the heartbreaking tragedy, when an innocent young woman is caught in the crossfire. You’ll see what happens when all of these lives collide, and realize how the aftershock still affects the survivors more than a half a century later. A riveting and true account of the perils of war as well as the prospect of forgiveness.
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.
This Rebel Heart
By Katherine Locke
448 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780593381274 | Ember
In the middle of Budapest, there is a river. Csilla knows the river is magic. During WWII, the river kept her family safe when they needed it most – safe from the Holocaust. But that was before the Communists seized power. Before her parents were murdered by the Soviet police. Before Csilla knew things about her father’s legacy that she wishes she could forget. Now Csilla keeps her head down, planning her escape from this country that has never loved her the way she loves it. But her carefully laid plans fall to pieces when her parents are unexpectedly, publicly exonerated. As the protests in other countries spur talk of a larger revolution in Hungary, Csilla must decide if she believes in the promise and magic of her deeply flawed country enough to risk her life to help save it, or if she should let it burn to the ground. With queer representation, fabulist elements, and a pivotal but little-known historical moment, This Rebel Heart is Katherine Locke’s tour de force.
Who Owns the Clouds?
By Mario Brassard
Illustrated by Gérard DuBois
100 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781774880210 | Tundra Books
Even though Mila is no longer a child, she is overcome by memories — memories of a childhood halfway between reality and dreaming, and not knowing which is which. In her dreams, Mila and her family leave their bombed village to stand in line for weeks on end, suitcases in hand, hoping to move on to better lives. But the memories of her uncle’s disappearance, and the approach of looming clouds, keep blurring the lines between past and present, real and unreal. How can Mila move forward? Perhaps if the clouds can remind her of where she’s from, they can also show her where to go . . . Winner of a Governor General’s Award, Canada’s most prestigious literary prize, and the Bologna Ragazzi Award, this stunningly evocative book about experience, trauma and healing will stay with readers from beginning to end.