Wednesday, June 5, 2019

World War II Nonfiction for Young Readers: D-Day Edition

June 6, 2019 is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the landing at Normandy by the Allied Forces. As you know, I love a good commemorative post, and I wanted to put something together for this anniversary. This group of World War II history books for young readers has several books that include D-Day events. Though written with young readers in mind, these books are great for readers of any age.

D-Day: The World War II Invasion that Changed History by Deborah Hopkinson
On June 6, 1944 the allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy and began the final push that would end the war in Europe. This landing was product of months and years of planning and cost nearly 20,000 lives. Deborah Hopkinson's book is a great introduction to the Allied invasion. She very clearly lays out the circumstances leading up to the D-Day and then takes the readers through several of the crucial events of the day. With an event so momentous as D-Day, a history can get bogged down in the details. Hopkinson narrows the focus by primarily discussing the American efforts at Utah and Omaha beach, rather than trying to tackle the landings at all five beaches. My favorite part of the book is that it is filled with many firsthand and personal accounts, which helps the history come alive in a way that a strict military recounting cannot. This book would be a great resource for anyone who is doing a report or school project on D-Day or World War II, as it includes links to many other resources. Published August 28, 2018 by Scholastic Nonfiction.

Code Girls: The True Story of the American Women Who Secretly Broke Codes in World War II by Liza Mundy
I've long been fascinated by the stories of the codebreakers of World War II. However, I realized that most of the code breaking stories I was hearing came from the British, and I didn't know as much about the American codebreakers. Liza Mundy's young reader's adaptation of her bestselling book, tells the story of the more than ten thousand American women who were recruited to work as codebreakers for the U.S. Army and Navy. These women were recruited from colleges around the country. Many others had worked as teachers. Code breaking requires a variety of skills--language, math, pattern recognition, precision, etc. Those women who passed their crash course in code breaking, went on to help break the Japanese codes. They were not allowed to tell anyone what their real job was, and their work was classified for decades. I love books about the women's contributions to World War II, and this one is fascinating and informative. Published October 2, 2018 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

The Perfect Horse: The Daring Rescue of Horses Kidnapped by Hitler by Elizabeth Letts
Hitler claimed  so much for the Germans, including land, art, and Europe's most renowned horses. Elizabeth Letts' young readers edition of her New York Times bestseller, tells the story of the fight to keep these horses safe during World War II. The book brings together the stories of the famous Austrian Lipizzaner Stallions and the Polish Arabian Thoroughbreds. Keeping the horses safe and fed was not small feat. Many were transported several times during the war years. The Americans come into play near the end of the war, when the horses were sheltered at a Czechoslovakian breeding farm. With the Soviet Army, who had been known to slaughter even the finest horses to feed its army, fast approaching the caretakers made the daring decision to go to the American forces for help. The Perfect Horse is a facet of the war that I had never heard about before reading this book. It's an excellent choice for animal lovers. Published February 12th 2019 by Delacorte Press. 

Secret Soldiers: How the U.S. Twenty-Third Special Troops Fooled the Nazis by Paul B. Janeczko
The Twenty-Third Special Troops or Ghost Army was created to perfect and deploy deception techniques that would mislead the Nazis and give the Allies the advantage of surprise. It was a unit made up of artists, actors, sound engineers, and set designers. They pulled off their deceptions by employing inflatable dummy tanks and guns, phony radio messages, sonic deception, and good acting. One of the first missions of the Twenty-Third was to convince the Nazis that D-Day would occur at Calais rather than Normandy and at a much later date. Once the invasion was underway the troops came to the continent to execute many other deceptions. I think the Ghost Army is a really fascinating aspect of military history, and this book is a very detailed look into the role they played. I liked that the book had information boxes about some of the key weapons and tactics of WWII and artist notebooks that featured prominent members of the troop. I would recommend it to a young reader who is on the older side or to a reader who really likes military history. Published April 23rd 2019 by Candlewick Press. Review copy from NetGalley.

Defying the Nazis: The Story of German Officer Wilm Hosenfeld by Hermann Vinke
Wilm Hosenfeld initially supported Hitler's conquests. He was stationed in Poland as the games director, and quickly grew disillusioned with the Nazi party. He quietly helped as many Poles and Jews as he could, employing them in his office, reunited them with their families, and doing his best to protect them from Nazi brutality. Older readers might have seen one of Hosenfeld's heroic acts of charity in the Oscar-winning film, The Pianist. Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jew Hosenfeld helped, did not even know the name of his benefactor for decades. What is perhaps most fascinating about Vinke's book is how he's able to reconstruct Hosenfeld's transformation through the many letters that he wrote to his wife and children. In them, we see Hosenfeld's eyes open slowly to the horrors of the Nazi regime. Vinke's book includes excerpts from many of Hosenfeld's letters and photographs of Hosenfeld and his family. Out September 30th 2018 from Star Bright Books. Review copy from NetGalley.

Standing Up Against Hate: How Black Women in the Army Helped Change the Course of WWII by Mary Cronk Farrell
The military was segregated during World War II, and this segregation extended to the newly formed women's units. This book tells the story of the African American women who enlisted in the Women's Army Corps (WAC). These black women faced discrimination from their commanders and from civilians. However, these segregated units also gave black women a large amount of autonomy and leadership opportunities. Charity Adams commanded the only black WAC battalion to serve overseas. Tasked to sort an enormous amount of mail, these women served with distinction and honor. Their time in England and France, countries which were far less prejudice than the United States, gave these women a glimpse of what America could become. This book is very engaging and well written, and I really enjoyed learning about these remarkable women and their legacy. This book and Steve Sheinkin's Port Chicago 50 are an excellent pair. I would definitely recommend reading them together. Published January 8th 2019 by Harry N. Abrams. Review copy from NetGalley.

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin
The military was segregated during World War II, and the African American men who joined the Navy were not permitted to go to sea. 300 men from an all-black unit stationed in Port Chicago, California were killed when the ammunition they were loaded onto ships at port exploded. When the men were ordered back to work, 244 refused to go, seeking safer working conditions; 50 would be charged with mutiny. Steve Sheinkin's book is an informative look at segregation and racism. I found the racism really horrifying, especially as it plays out in the courtroom. This book a very fast read that almost reads like a court procedural. Sheinkin makes a good case for this event being instrumental in the eventual desegregation of the military as well as an prelude to the Civil Rights movement. Published January 21, 2014 by Roaring Brook Press.

More World War II Wednesday posts here.
More History Books for Young Readers here.

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