Wednesday, December 7, 2016

World War II Nonfiction for Young Readers

Today is Pearl Harbor Day. 2016 marks 75 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II. (Check out Remember Pearl Harbor for events and news.) In commemoration we have a series of World War II posts that will coming your way over the next few weeks.

To start we have a fabulous bunch of nonfiction books about World War II all written for young readers (but great for older readers too). This collection is primarily centered on the children and teenagers whose lives were drastically altered because of the war.

Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport by Emma Carlson Berne:
Thousands of Jewish children were rescued from Germany between 1938 and 1940 through humanitarian efforts. Their exodus is known as the Kindertransport. This book designed for young readers tells the stories of seven Jewish children who escaped Germany through these means. The book reproduces many of the children's own words--giving voice to these young, displaced children. Reading about the lengths some parents took to get their children out of Germany was heartbreaking. Supplemented with photographs and discussion questions, this book is a great resource. Out February 1, 2017 from Capstone Press.

Going Solo by Roald Dahl:
Going Solo is part two of Dahl's autobiography written for young readers. The first, Boy, tells of his youth and experiences at school. In Going Solo, Dahl takes his first job, moves to Africa to work for Shell, and then joins the Royal Air Force. Dahl offers an interesting perspective on the war because he is in Africa when the war begins. He does his training and much of his service in Africa and the Middle East, as well. Dahl finds himself in some very harrowing circumstances. Also, I admire his honesty concerning some of the military blunders and instances of incompetence that impacted him as a soldier. I have read Going Solo several times, and it is one of my very favorite books.

Krysia: A Polish Girl's Stolen Childhood During World War II by Krystyna Mihulka and
Krystyna Mihulka tells the story of her childhood in this moving memoir. Krysia was nine when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. Hitler had made a pact with Stalin and the two powers divided up Poland between themselves. Krysia and her family lived on the Russian side. Krystyna, now in her 80s, tells the story of her family's deportation by the Soviets to Kazakhstan and their struggles to be reunited with their relatives. The more I read about WWII, the more I am astounded by what the Polish people went through. I'm so glad that Krystyna Muhulka decided to write her story. Her tale is an aspect of the war that is not as well known and should certainly be preserved. Out January 1st, 2017 from Chicago Review Press. 

The Ship to Nowhere by Rona Arato:
Millions of people were displaced during World War II. The Ship to Nowhere tells the story of a Jewish refugee, eleven-year-old Rachel Landesman, who, forced to flee from her home during WWII, set sail with her mother and sister in 1947 on the Exodus. The Exodus attempted to take 45,000 Jewish immigrants into Palestine illegally. Written for middle-school ages children, Rona Arato, writes the narrative from Rachel's point of view. Rachel and several key players tell the stories of their past and express their hopes for the future. With the refugee crisis today, this is certainly a timely book. Out October 4, 2016 from Second Story Press.

Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti:
This book posits that one of the reasons that so many Germans embraced Hitler's program is because they had been indoctrinated from a young age. The Hitler Youth Programs fed Hitler's war machine. To read about brainwashing on this level is so terrifying. Susan Campbell Bartoletti tells the stories of several former Hitler Youth members. Most fully embraced Hitler's program but some bravely resisted despite the great danger. Bartoletti's book is an important reminder of how despots take hold of populations. It is a powerful read. 2006 Newberry Honor book from Scholastic.

Irena's Children: A True Story of Courage (Young Readers' Edition) by Tilar Mazzeo:
In Nazi-occupied Poland, Irena Sendler saved 2,500 Jewish children from death and deportation. Hers is an incredible story. She took countless life-threatening risks organizing a network of resistance workers, moving in and out of the Warsaw Ghetto, hiding children across the country, and keeping a list of their locations. Poland suffered horribly during World War II, and many of their survival stories were suppressed due to Soviet occupation after the war. It is so important that these powerful stories are preserved. I was amazed by Irena's strength and honor and so appalled by the horrible circumstances the Polish people found themselves in. Out September 26, 2016 from Margaret K. McElderry Books.

See American History: World War II, 1939-1945 by James I Robertson, Illustrated by Mort Kunstler:
This short, illustrated overview of America's military involvement in World War II is something that I can see a lot of kids loving. I know I would have liked it as a child. The beauty of this book really does lie in Mort Kunstler's illustrations. As color photography was very rare in the 1940s, the illustrations give readers the chance to see WWII planes, soldiers, and ships in full color. The illustrations are detailed and many will warrant lengthy examinations. The text itself is concise but informative and explains the illustrations well. Out November 8, 2016 from Abbeville Kids.

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