Monday, June 4, 2018

Bookmarks - WW2 Chapter Books

I shared picture books about World War 2 a few weeks ago. Here is a new list that includes chapter books on the same time period. 

Many of these stories have tense moments of danger so preread to make sure your children are emotionally mature enough to enjoy the book. For younger readers, I have read these books aloud so that I can edit as needed and to help them through the horrors of topics like the Holocaust. 

I listed these roughly in order from short to longer books.

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Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop
Twenty French children are asked to share their mountain refuge with ten Jewish children. When the Nazis arrive, can they be trusted to protect their friends? A short story that is the perfect introduction to World War 2.

Forging Freedom by Hudson Talbott
Jaap Penrat doesn't understand his Polish neighbors hatred of the Jews and looks for ways to save his friends' lives. Smuggling young men right through the Nazi lines, Jaap manages to save hundreds of men from certain death. A true story of danger and courage with great illustrations.

Danny had just moved to Hawaii where his mother served as a nurse. He longs to return to his home in New York until the day that the Japanese attack the island. This short chapter book is part of a series of excellent “I Survived” books.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
When the Nazis invade Denmark, Annemarie's friend Ellen is in danger. Learn how the people of Denmark banded together to evacuate thousands of Jews. One of my favorites.

Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan
Peter wanted to become a hero, but in a snow-covered village in Norway, he thought he had no chance. But when Peter's uncle asks the children to smuggle gold past the Nazis in their sleds, Peter will have too much adventure. More fiction than history, so it isn't my favorite, but children enjoy it.

When the Sirens Wailed by Noel Streatfeild
Three children are sent out of London along with thousands of other children to escape the bombing. They face uncertainties with pluck and creativity as they try to reunite their family. Realistic details stem from the author's own memories as a volunteer worker in war-time London. Out of print but worth searching for.

Anna chose to ignore Hitler's photo on the posters through-out Berlin, but one day her father was gone and Anna had to sneak out of Germany. Through Switzerland, France, and, finally, England, the family strives to stay together. Based on the author's childhood. A similar story is Journey to America by Sonia Levitin.

Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban
Manami loves walking on the shores of Bainbridge Island with her grandfather and her dog, Yujiin. But when their family, along with other Japanese Americans, is forced into a prison camp in the desert, Manami must leave her dog behind. Beautifully told in the voice of a grieving ten-year-old.

When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park
Sun-hee never remembers when Korea had not belonged to Japan, but now they are given Japanese names and World War 2 comes to their community. My children said this book looked boring, but they were hooked by the first chapter. Learn about the Korean occupation and the training of the kamikaze pilots from a talented writer.

The Winged Watchman by Hilda Van Stockum
Joris can hardly remember life before the Nazis occupied Norway. Life was hard in the family living in a working windmill, especially as food gets scarce. Many of the villagers band together to resist the Nazis, saving downed pilot and sending secret messages by windmill. An excellent story, warm, sometimes tense, and always hopeful.

Hana's Suitcase by Karen Levine
Two true stories are brought together by an old child's suitcase - one from a small Czech town during World War 2 where Hana lives with her older brother – and another sixty years later in Japan where a teacher searches for clues on a Holocaust artifact.

Black Radishes by Susan Lynn Meyer
Gustave is dismayed when his parents decide to leave their home in Paris. He thinks the French army can protect them from the Nazis. Gustave uses a rare vegetable to help his family escape. Inspired by true stories. The sequel Skating with the Statue of Liberty tells of Gustave's new home in America and the shadow of civil rights.

Escape From Warsaw by Ian Serraillier (formerly The Silver Sword)
Dad's in prison, Mom's arrested, and Edek and his sisters are being pursued by Nazi soldiers. Running through the Polish city and countryside, the children never lose hope that their family will be reunited.

Someone Named Eva by Joan M. Wolf
Milada and a few other village children were chosen for Germanization. With a new name, a new family, and a new language, will she ever see her real family again? Based on the history of Lidice, Czechoslovakia and the Lebensborn centers.

Elephant Run by Roland Smith
Nick is sent from London to Burma to escape the Nazi bombing only to be dumped into the Japanese invasion. Introduces young readers to the Pacific battlefield in an absorbing story of courage and danger. My boys loved it though I considered the plot rather unbelievable.

Captured by the Russians and sent from Poland to Siberia, Esther and her family weed potato fields and struggle to survive. The story of the author's childhood.

For adults or older youth, don't miss these three excellent true stories from World War 2. All three are told by a dedicated Christian woman who is imprisoned during World War 2. I consider all these books to be personally life-changing.

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
If I Perish by Esther Ahn Kim
Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose


  1. Really good list.
    I will be looking at the library to see which ones I can find.
    I so enjoyed your children’s picture book list in WW2. I found many of them at the library.
    Yes, The Hiding Place is life changing. I’ve often told people that when I recommend they read it. That it changed me when I read it.
    I will have to read the other two you mentioned. I’ve heard of them, but not read them.
    Thank you,
    Praying you and your family are doing well.

  2. Thanks for the suggestions.
    Here’s another- a book I just ebook from our library. About child evacuees over World War II
    The War That Saved my Life. By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (a different perspective) my children and I love to read. Our oldest’s fav has been The Hiding Place for several years now.

  3. Can you share your thoughts on why non-resistant parents should read or encourage their children to read so many stories relating to war? I did have them read some textbooks during the upper grades, but always have wondered where the line was on what they should be reading. It's not so much that the stories you have mentioned may be 'bad', but if they read these and develop and interest in war, then want to read more, then more, and more, it just becomes a slippery slope at some point. Or maybe I am completely off in my thinking.....!

    1. Brenda-
      Good question. To me, reading books like these have prompted many discussions with my children on the horrors of war. And I think that is good. I have avoided books that depict the military as the heroes, though a few of these would have a little of that. We avoid biographies of war generals, for example. I've tried to find books that show ordinary citizens trying to help others in times of war - people like Corrie ten Boom. Some of these books do depict resistant fighters who were not nonresistant. I don't want to glorify war and to me that means teaching my children honestly about its horrors. But every family will need to decide what they want their children to read. I don't claim to have done it perfectly.


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