I don’t normally do book hauls. In fact, this would be my first. But this year, I’ve read quite a lot on one particular subject, and that is WW2. The reason for my thematic reading? My current writing project is a middle grade adventure story based around the time of the Battle of Britain. Hence I’ve been reading as much as I can in the genre, both to educate myself and simply to get immersed in the setting of 1940s Great Britain.
And it’s been GREAT! As a fantasy lover, I never expected to find so many fantastic WW2-themed books for young readers, but there are loads of what I would definitely call Must-Reads. So whether you’ve any interest in learning about war time Britain, or just have a fascination with that bygone era, here is a list of books I deem not-to-be-missed!
1. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, by Judith Kerr
I can’t tell you how many times this book has been recommended to me, not by WW2 buffs, but by young children who declare it to be their favourite book. At last I know why! In “Pink Rabbit”, Judith Kerr, the author of The Tiger Who Came to Tea, tells the story of her own childhood as a German Jewish refugee in Switzerland, Paris, and at last England. Told from a child’s perspective, the experience of fleeing Nazi persecution is coloured with humour, adventure and family love. It’s irresistible!
2. Bombs on Aunt Dainty, also by Judith Kerr
This is the sequel to “Pink Rabbit,” & I would definitely place it in the YA bracket. This book cover Anna’s (Judith’s character) teen years in London during the Blitz. There’s certainly a lot more war action & apparent hardship in this one, but still the story features mostly on Anna’s relationships, dreams to become an artist, and first love. It was brilliant to follow the characters I’d grown to love in the first book right on into the next chapters of their lives. I’m often cautious about reading a sequel of a book I’ve really love less it fails to deliver & leaves me disappointed. Well this was one sequel which did not disappoint!
3. Goodnight Mr. Tom, by Michelle Magorian
I can’t believe I’d never read this book before. It’s considered a classic of our age, & now I see why. It’s the story of Willie Beech, an abused, neglected evacuee from London who comes to live with a grumpy old widow (Mr. Tom) in the country. Slowly but surely, the two get beneath one another’s skin and change each other. There is so much that is heartbreaking in this book, but also so much triumphant goodness that it’s worth the heartbreak! Read it, & I defy you not to cry!
4. Carrie’s War, by Nina Bawden
Another one about evacuees (naturally a popular topic for kid’s lit since being shipped off from home to a strange new place is a ready-made adventure!). Carrie & her younger brother are sent to Wales to live with the domineering, grumpy Mr. Evans and his meek sister Aunty Lou. There is little war action in the far-removed Welsh village, but the story is filled with interesting characters, mystery & unexpected twists. It’s quite an quick & easy read as well!
5. Friend or Foe, by Michael Morpurgo
Morpurgo is a master of writing war for children. Whilst most everyone knows about his title War Horse thanks to the hollywood production, he has in fact produced volumes of WW1 & 2-set stories for middle grade readers. This particular story follows, once again, two evacuees boys, but thankfully they get landed with a big-hearted dairy farmer & his wife. The action takes off when the boys witness a German plane crash & discover two of its crew alive & hiding in a nearby field. The boys have to struggle with their own pasts and consciences to decide whether to help the men– enemies though they are– or turn them in. This too is a quick & easy read, but rather thought provoking for young readers & old alike!
6. From Anna, by Jean Little
I’m still in the middle of this one, but it’s captured my heart already! Similar to When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, this story follows a little girl, also Anna, whose family flees Germany at the advent of the Nazi regime. Only there’s a twist to this one — Anna has always been the odd one out in her family & at school, & only when the family make their move to Canada does she discover the reason! Then everything changes for her. Though I don’t yet know how this one ends, it’s already taken me on an emotional rollercoaster, but I’ve loved every minute of it!
So there you have it! I hope if you’ve never read on this subject (as I had not till quite recently), you’ll give it a go! I’d also love to hear your recommendations of books for kids set around war.
And watch this space! I’ll be sharing some snippets of my own WW2 novel for you to review veeeeery soon!