I was trying to come up with a genre to recommend this week. I thought historical fiction might be a good topic, but it’s almost too broad to choose from. So, I’ve narrowed it down to WWI and WWII books. Many of them are YA or middle grade, mainly because I’ve read so many for our American History Club the past few years. I’m also not going to recommend the obvious ones like Unbroken or The Book Thief since everyone’s heard of them (and if you haven’t, click on the link to read my original book review.) As before, if you click on the title, it will take you to my original review and if you click on the cover image, you’ll follow a link to Amazon where you can buy the book and support my blog.
Let me go down in recommended age for the book and start with the only targeted-to-adults book on the list – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Borrows. I love it when I can find books on a well-known subject (like WWII) in a unique setting, like Guernsey. This story is told all in letters, which captured my interest completely. The trick is to pay attention to the headings and salutations so you know who is talking to who. There’s a bit of romance and all the privations of war, without the bloodshed.
Moving a bit younger, I’m recommending Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. This has a more traditional WWII setting, with a British spy being captured in France. The twist to the story is the spy is a young woman, and the story you see unfolding isn’t actually the truth. You’re better off not knowing the full plot of this book, or it ruins the second half. Trust me, though, the book is well written and you’re pulled into the lives of the characters. I’m hoping I can convince my book group to read this book, if they all haven’t already. This is marketed as a YA book, but it’s not a kid’s book because the themes and a bit of implied torture are more mature.
And finally, on to the middle-grade crowd recommendations – I have two, and both are set outside of the more traditional Britain/France/Germany stories so you can see how people dealt with the war when they weren’t necessarily in the midst of battles. First off is Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan. It’s set in Norway at the start of WWII. The Norwegians are trying to smuggle their gold bullion out of the country without the Nazis getting it, and they use children and their sleds to get it down the mountain and to the fjord safely. It’s a fascinating little story that is supposedly based on true events. Next is Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. This won a Newbery Award, so it’s not a complete unknown, but it deserves the love. This book is set in Denmark and focuses on the population’s efforts to save their Jewish population when the Nazis plan on relocating the Jews. We see it from a single family and set of friends, which puts it in perspective for kids reading the story.
And finally, something different – both in terms of the war and genre. I’m recommending Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan Trilogy, starting with Leviathan, and also including Behemoth and Goliath. This is an alternate history, steampunk version of WWI where the Allies are Darwinists and use fabulous engineered beasties for all their technology and the Axis are Clankers who have actual machines do their work. There’s some great artwork sprinkled throughout the book, and it is a fun read. Again, it’s YA but great for multiple ages.
Hopefully, I provided a book or two for your Christmas list. Anything you’d suggest for my list?
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