Eva Ibbotson – Journey to the River Sea Amazon 1910
I have read several of Ibbotson’s books and loved them all. This is a gentle story, no huge rip-roaring adventure here, however the reader can truly see and experience the Amazon through the story. From CIP: Sent with her governess to live with the dreadful Carter family in exotic Brazil in 1910, Maia endures many hardships before fulfilling her dream of exploring the Amazon River.
John Wilson – And In the Morning World War I 1914
This is a short read and very powerful. Jim is a young Canadian, only 16, who joins the military after his father is killed in action. The summary on the jacket flap best describes the story, “What Jim discovers in the trenches of France is enough to dispel any romantic view of the war. And while his longing for adventure is replaced by basic need to csurvive, the final tragic outcome is one he never dreamed of.”
Michael Morpurgo – Private Peaceful World War I
This is a must read. The story is written so eloquently that I was left with an intense feeling of desolation. The story begins at the end. The beginning of each chapter the present, then memories tell how he go to this point in his life in the war. From CIP: When Thomas Peaceful’s older brother is forced to join the British Army, Thomas decides to sign up as well, although he is only fourteen years old, to prove himself to his country, his family, his childhood love, Molly, and himself.
Michael Morpurgo – War Horse World War I
Told from the horse’s point of view. This has been on our reading list twice and very popular with students. An English farm horse is separated from his young master when he is sold to the British army as a cavalry horse during World War I. The war continues and his fate changes many times. Meanwhile, the young boy grows up and joins the army with hopes of finding his beloved horse. Excellent!
Anne Neuberger– The Girl-Son Korea 1920
This is a short read, but very poignant. From CIP: Based on the life of IndukPahk, a Korean educator, whose widowed mother disguised her as a boy at the age of eight in order for her to attend school, a choice forbidden to girls in the early twentieth century in that country.
LenseyNamioka – Ties that Bind, Ties that Break China 1925
Alexander Solzhenitsyn – One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Russia 1930
Perhaps because this was assigned reading in high school and we dissect it and got tested over it, I disliked the book. I read it later, as an adult and appreciated it so much more. The writing is so vivid, and describes the bleakness of the work camp and the frozen surroundings extremely well. Best for high school students and above that have the background knowledge necessary to fully appreciate the story. From CIP: Recounts the experiences of Shukhov, a prisoner at a Soviet work camp in Siberia, as he struggles for survival.
Vivian VandeVelde – A Coming Evil France 1940
From CIP: Thirteen-year-old LisetteBeaucaire is resentful when her parents send her from Nazi-occupied Paris in 1940 to live with her aunt in the country, but she barely has time to get bored when she learns the farm is a hiding place for several Jewish and Gypsy children, as well as a ghost from another time of historical conflict who proves to be an invaluableally.
Ida Vox – Dancing on the Bridge of Avignon Holland 1940
Daniel Chotjewitz – Daniel Half Human and the Good Nazi World War II 1933
This is a very powerful book and worth reading. Due to intense situations and subject matter, best for older teens. From CIP: In 1933, best friends Daniel and Armin admire Hitler, but as anti-Semitism buoys Hitler to power, Daniel learns he is half Jewish, threatening the friendship even as life in their beloved Hamburg, Germany, is becoming nightmarish. Also details Daniel and Armin’s reunion in 1945 in interspersed chapters.
Elizabeth Wein – Code Name Verity World War II
This book is amazing and intense. The story follows two young women and their involvement in the British war effort during WWII. One is a pilot, the other is a spy. The story opens in Julie’s voice. She has been captured and tortured by the Nazis after being dropped in France for a mission with the French Resistance. She writes the story of her friendship with Maddie, who lives and breathes to fly. It was Maddie who flew her to France for her mission. The Nazis think Julie is a wireless operator. Her tormentors have broken her and she promises to write lines of code which she weaves into her story. The more she writes, the longer she is allowed to live. The author’s thorough research shines through. The details about life in Britain during WWII, the civilian female pilots, the espionage, the airplanes, the friendship, the desperation, the sorrow, the loss, are all brilliantly woven into this complex story. It’s espionage after all, so it will be complex. Also well written is the disruption of war. Common people whose everyday lives were interrupted by war. Former schoolgirls are resistance fighters. German headmasters and chemists, forced to become torturers and murderers, losing their souls in the process. This story will linger with me for quite some time – every nuance in the book. The characters feel so real and the story is so well told the reader will feel that they are with Julie during every joy and struggle in her life. How utterly brave, selflessly brave, the young men and women were during the war.
Markus Zusak – The Book Thief World War II
A longer book and best for avid readers. From CIP: Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel–a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors.
Linda Sue Park – When my Name was Keoko Korea (Japanese Occupation) 1940
I highly recommend this book and the one below for those interested in Korea or anyone interested in understanding history. This is an example of one culture dominating and stamping out another culture, or attempting to. From CIP: With national pride and occasional fear, a brother and sister face the increasingly oppressive occupation of Korea by Japan during World War II, which threatens to suppress Korean culture entirely.
SookNyulChoi – Year of Impossible Goodbyes Korea (Japanese Occupation) 1940
A young Korean girl survives the oppressive Japanese and Russian occupation of North Korea during the 1940s, to later escape to freedom in South Korea. Follow up titles to the story: Echos of the White Giraffe, Gathering of Pearls
Iain Lawrence – B for Buster World War II 1943
I have read many of Lawrence’s books and feel his writing is excellent. Years before reading this, I watched the movie, Memphis Belle (1990), about a US Air Force crew’s last flight. This book reminded me so much of the film. Both are excellent. From CIP: Sixteen-year-old Kak, desperate to escape his abusive parents, lies about his age in the spring of 1943 to enlist in the Canadian Air Force and soon finds himself based in England as part of a crew flying bombing raids over Germany.
Don Wulffson – Soldier X Eastern Europe/Russia WWII 1944
I introduce this book to students interested in reading about WWII. The point of view is different from the typical WWII story. Not all Germans were members of the Nazi party. Not all Germans wanted a war. In 1943, sixteen-year-old Erik experiences the horrors of war when he is drafted into the German army and sent to fight on the Russian front. There are not many books published for the YA audience that include the war from the different views, particularly that of the Russian soldier.
Kimberley Brubaker Bradley – For Freedom: the Story of a French Spy World War II
I am amazed at what teenagers took on during the war. Stories of heroism are always awe inspiring. From CIP: A novel based on the experiences of Suzanne David Hall, who, as a teenager in Nazi-occupied France, worked as a spy for the French Resistance while training to be an opera singer.
L.M. Elliott – Under a War-Torn Sky World War II
An excellent book about the French Resistance, best paired with For Freedom (see above). From CIP: After his plane is shot down by Hitler’s Luftwaffe, nineteen-year-old Henry Forester of Richmond, Virginia, strives to walk across occupied France, with the help of the French Resistance, in hopes of rejoining his unit.
Mal Peet – Tamar World War II Resistance
A surprise ending is part of this intensely dramatic book. Best for older teens. From CIP: In England in 1995, fifteen-year-old Tamar, grief-stricken by the puzzling death of her beloved grandfather, slowly begins to uncover the secrets of his life in the Dutch resistance during the last year of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, and the climactic events that forever cast a shadow on his life and that of his family.
Walter Dean Myers – The Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins : a World War II Soldier World War II
Part of the My Name is America series, these books are very popular because of the readability. Stories told in journal form read quickly. Brilliantly written by the prolific Walter Dean Myers, this is a good way to learn about D-Day, the Allied Forces invasion of Normandy and the battles that followed.
Dean Hughes – Soldier Boys WWII 1940
This story is told in alternating chapters. Two boys, one German and one American, are eager to join their respective armies during World War II, and their paths cross at the Battle of the Bulge. This is and will continue to be very popular among students wanting to read about WWII.
Laurence Yep – Hiroshima Japan 1945
Gila Almagor – Under the Domim Tree Israel 1953
This summer, I watched a documentary on the life of Ruth Gruber and her efforts to document and assist in establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine following WWII. After watching that, I went back and re-read Under the Domim Tree. The story chronicles the joys and troubles experienced by a group of teenagers, mostly Holocaust survivors, living at an Israeli youth settlement in 1953.
Gloria Whelan – Goodbye, Vietnam Vietnam 1960
Suzanne Fisher Staples – Shabanu (Newbery Honor) 1980s
The intense situations in this story are very realistic and might be best suited for the mature teen. This is a story that has great impact. From CIP: When eleven-year-old Shabanu, the daughter of a nomad in the Cholistan Desert of present-day Pakistan, is pledged in marriage to an older man whose money will bring prestige to the family, she must either accept the decision, as is the custom, or risk the consequences of defying her father’s wishes. Haveli is the follow up.
Deborah Ellis – The Breadwinner Afghanistan 1990s
Ellis tells an important story and tells it well. She researched the story, going to Afghanistan and speaking with women. From CIP: Because the Taliban rulers of Kabul, Afghanistan, impose strict limitations on women’s freedom and behavior, eleven-year-old Parvana must disguise herself as a boy so that her family can survive after her father’s arrest. Follow up stories: Parvana’s Journey , Mud City
Gloria Whelan – Homeless Bird India 1990s
Alice Mead – Girl of Kosovo Kosovo (Serbia) 1999
History continues to repeat with one culture cruelly striving to eliminate another. An excellent and compelling read. From CIP: Although Zana, an eleven-year-old Albanian girl, experiences the turmoil and violence of the 1999 conflict in her native Kosovo, she remembers her father’s admonition to not let her heart become filled with hate.