World – 1900s

Eva IbbotsonJourney 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 WilsonAnd 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 MorpurgoPrivate 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.

Gloria WhelanAll My Noble Dreams and Then What Happens   India  1920s

all my noble dreamsThis companion to Small Acts of Courage can stand alone.  The author does a wonderful job clueing the reader in on Rosalind’s adventures in India during the time of British Colonization.  Her father is stationed in India and works for the British government during the time that Gandhi is leading peaceful protests for India’s freedom. She has returned to her beloved India after a brief stint with family back in England.

She continues to stir things up and do all she can to bring the cause for India’s independence to the attention of the royal family.  Through her father’s connections, she does get to meet the Prince of Wales on tour and is later presented to the King of England, King George III.  The author sprinkles so much information about India and the time period that this book would integrate quite well into a World Cultures class unit.  This is a fast read with less than 200 pages and moves along at a brisk pace.

LenseyNamiokaTies that Bind, Ties that Break  China 1925

Footbinding in China.Highly recommended.  From CIP:  Ailin’s life takes a different turn when she defies the traditions of upper class Chinese society by refusing to have her feet bound.

Alexander SolzhenitsynOne 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 VandeVeldeA 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 VoxDancing on the Bridge of Avignon  Holland 1940

From CIP:  Relates the experiences of a young Jewish girl and her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

Daniel ChotjewitzDaniel 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 WeinCode Name Verity  World War II

code name verityThis 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.

Elizabeth WeinRose Under Fire   World War II

rose under fireHumanity is stripped to the basic levels of good and evil in this brilliant historical fiction novel that relates the horrors of Ravensbruck – a Nazi concentration camp.

During WWII, women pilots flew fighting planes to airfields.  The intent was to stay out of combat zones, but that was not always possible.  As the daughter of a pilot, Rose was raised to be a pilot.  Flying is in her blood.  She transfers overseas to England, where she meets Maddie, the heroic pilot from Code Name Verity.  After completing a mission to the newly liberated France, she is flying back to England when the German Luftwaffe forces her to land.  She is taken prisoner and experiences all of the horrors of the Nazi concentration camp, Ravensbruck.  The love and kindness of strangers, each in a desperate situation, fight against the evil horrors of their Nazi captors in the hopes of living another day and the mission to remember those who were killed – Tell the World!

Unlike Code Name Verity, that kept the reader guessing about the heroine’s fate, this story is told in flashback.  At first, this bothered me.  I wanted to be kept in the dark about Rose’s fate.  But no, the author is spot on perfect in this method of storytelling.  Weaving poetry into the narrative and using poetry as Rose’s lifeline is just one more example of the author’s genius.   Continuing Rose’s journey to include the Nuremberg Trials is the closure that the reader will long for.   Please read the author’s notes. Highly recommend.

Markus ZusakThe 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 ParkWhen 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.

SookNyulChoiYear 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 LawrenceB 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 WulffsonSoldier 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. ElliottUnder 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.


Margi PreusShadow on the Mountain   World War II

shadow on the mountainWhen the Nazis begin to occupy Norway in the early 1940′s, they anticipate that the citizens will be grateful for their presence and will be easy to mold.  While many young Norwegians quickly move to support the Nazis, many others resist and begin an underground rebellion.  Espen, a young teenage boy, eagerly joins the resistance movement.  He starts by delivering newspapers illegally, but quickly progresses to more dangerous adventures.  Throughout his journey, Espen leans about trust, love, family, loyalty, and extreme sacrifice.  The story, based on the real adventures of a brave young Norwegian, is quite compelling and presents a rarely-told perspective of World War II.

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 MyersThe 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 HughesSoldier 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 YepHiroshima  Japan   1945

Yep eloquently describes the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, particularly as it affects Sachi, who becomes one of the Hiroshima Maidens.  (novella)



Jennifer BradburyA Moment Comes India  1947

moment comesBefore the British pulled out of India, they were tasked with creating the borders for Pakistan.  Religions that used to live in harmony within India had grown intolerant of each other.  It was decided that a separate Muslim nation be created.  Margaret, the daughter of a British cartographer working on the boundaries, begins to learn about India and appreciate the people while remaining naïve about the unrest between the Muslim and Sikh peoples. Anupreet, a beautiful Sikh girl, bares the scar from a violent encounter with a Muslim man.  She comes to work for Margaret and her mother.  Tariq, an earnest young Muslim who seeks a recommendation to Oxford also joins the cartographer’s household as an assistant.  Their lives intertwine during this time of death, danger and uncertainty as tension between the religions rises.

Having enjoyed the author’s mystery, Shift, I was eager to read more from the author.  Superb!  Genuine characters placed in a vital time in history depicted with the stellar writing I am coming to expect from the author make this an excellent historical fiction novel.  The novel appears well researched and led me to read further about this time in India’s history.  Highly Recommend!

Gila AlmagorUnder 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 WhelanGoodbye, Vietnam   Vietnam   1960

Thirteen-year-old Mai and her family embark on a dangerous sea voyage from Vietnam to Hong Kong to escape the unpredictable and often brutal Vietnamese government.



Suzanne Fisher StaplesShabanu (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 EllisThe 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 WhelanHomeless Bird   India  1990s

From CIP: When thirteen-year-old Koly enters into an ill-fated arranged marriage, she must either suffer a destiny dictated by India’s tradition or find the courage to oppose it.



Alice MeadGirl 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.