World War 2 is one of the most popular eras of history to study. There are so many stories ranging from horrific battles on the Western Front to what women grew in their Victory Gardens to how the decision was made to bomb Japan. Here are 11 books your students can read while studying this time period. They can be used to provide context and perspective while watching Lesson 17 of Dave Raymond’s Modern World History series.
1. Hannah Goslar Remembers: A Childhood Friend of Anne Frank by Alison Leslie Gold
Anne Frank’s name is synonymous with WWII; here is her story told through the eyes of her childhood friend, Hannah Goslar. This is not a biography but rather the softened version of Hannah’s, and Anne’s, story. It is a fascinating look into one of the most famous stories about the war from an insider nobody knew about.
There is some description of concentration camps, but since this is a book for middle school students, it isn’t graphic.
2. Goodbye East End: An Evacuee’s Story by David Merron
This book addresses the period of the war when hundreds of children were sent out of London because of the bombings. It is also the true story of the author’s childhood. The book is incredibly moving and provides insight into an era we did not live through.
3. No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War by Anita Lobel
Many of you may recognize the name Arnold Lobel: this is his wife’s autobiography who also illustrated many of his children’s books. Born in Poland, she was a child when the Nazis took over and started sending Jews to concentration camps. It is a fantastic personal account of a horrific era of history. She maintains a feeling of hope throughout the book but does not shy away from the more painful aspects of her story.
Like other books on this list, there are several chapters describing concentration camps, but she does not describe anything graphically.
4. Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan
One of my younger sisters received this book for her birthday a long time ago and it has been a favorite in my house ever since. Like Canada in World War I, most people forget about Scandinavia’s part in WWII. This story is a fun, quick read and will spark your student’s interest in the war.
This is a perfect book to read aloud if your family has younger children.
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5. Number The Stars by Lois Lowry
This was one of my family’s favorite books to read aloud when we were studying WWII. It is the fictionalized account of a family who takes in a Jewish girl when the Nazis invaded Denmark. It is very sweet and another great choice to read aloud if you have little children who want to be included.
6. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
This book is similar to Goodbye East End since it is the story of the author’s childhood. The difference is, she grew up in Berlin as a Jew during the rise of the Third Reich. Boys will probably enjoy Goodbye East End more and girls may like this book better. Some events and conversations are fictionalized, but overall the story is very sweet and moving.
7. Code Talkers by Joseph Bruchac
Unlike the other books on this list, Code Talkers takes place on the Eastern Front with the Navajo Marines. Based on real events, this story is an incredibly well-written account of the war in the Pacific. The characters are convincing and interesting and will prompt interest in both the Navajo Marines and the Eastern Front.
Since it is a war book, some characters are killed, but there aren’t any graphic descriptions.
8. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
Possibly one of the most famous books about WWII, there is not much I can say about it that you won’t already know. If you haven’t read it, it should go to the top of your book list. Both middle and high school students should read this, whether they are studying WWII or not. This is a book everyone should own, especially considering what is going on in our world right now.
Again, there are many chapters about concentration camps, but Corrie Ten Boom writes with a feeling of hope that overpowers the horrors of the camp.
9. Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose
Another autobiography, this book is similar to The Hiding Place, but instead of focusing on the Nazis and concentration camps of the Western Front, Mrs. Rose describes the Japanese and concentration camps of the Eastern Front. For all the attention WWII gets, the fight in the Pacific often gets passed over. This book provides insight into this part of the war in such a way that will bring you to tears.
(Ages 13+) While she does explain aspects of the concentration camps, Mrs. Rose does not dwell on it, nor does she describe anything graphically. She was a Christian missionary at the time which makes the book that much more powerful.
10. London At War 1939-1945 by Alan Jefferys
This book is a compilation of photographs and firsthand accounts describing what it was like to live in London while being bombed. If you’re looking for a good overview of the British side of the war, this is the best option.
11. Secrets of Churchill’s War Rooms by Jonathan Asbury
It has been argued Winston Churchill saved the West from the Axis powers almost singlehandedly until the United States entered the war. Most people at least recognize his name, but many do not know about his secret war rooms under the city of London. These rooms are where he worked, ate, and slept for most of the war. The book provides pictures of the rooms and firsthand accounts of those who worked and lived there. It is a fascinating picture of who Churchill was and how he lived.
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