Historical Fiction, History, Top Picks, WW2

Top Picks: World War Two Historical Fiction

The Winged Watchman, Hilda Van Stockum When this book appeared on our Top 10 Family Read-Alouds I wrote that if you only read one book about WW2, this should be it, so it is appropriately heading up the list here.  Great for younger students as well, everyone in the family will be on the edge of their seats for this tale set in Holland during the German occupation.  This book opened my eyes to the plight of the Dutch people during the war.  It also showcases the moral integrity of many who helped in the underground fighting against their Goliath enemy.  Ages 6+

The Chestry Oak, Kate Seredy Since this book is our family’s very favorite, it is on more than one Top 10 list!  This book is perfect for a whole range of readers–it follows the story of Michael, Prince of Hungary, from his nursery days before the war through his post-war settling in America.  A tale of courage, honor, fortitude, loyalty, sacrifice, and blessing.  Very hard to find, but worth the search!  Now in reprint from Purple House Press!  Ages 6+

The House of Sixty Fathers, Meindert De Jong Set in China during the Japanese invasion, De Jong draws on his own experiences when stationed there to bring us the gripping tale of a young boy separated from his family, hundreds of miles behind enemy lines!  His generous spirit brings about a very happy ending.  Ages 6+

The Borrowed House, Hilda Van Stockum
By the author of the Winged Watchman, this is the story of a teen-aged German girl, raised in the Hitler Youth, who moves with her actor parents to a house in Holland.  There she learns that the propaganda she has been fed is not true–and how Van Stockum relates her awakening to Truth is fantastic.  I checked out of life and read this book in one sitting!  There are some more mature themes in this book so a parental preview may be necessary (no one I’ve given this book to hasn’t wanted their kids to read it, but all were glad they had read it themselves!).  Ages 12+

The Avion My Uncle Flew, Cyrus Fisher Many boys I know have loved this story that takes place just after WW2 when an American boy comes to France with his diplomatic father.  Staying with his mother’s brother who is busy building an airplane, the boy hero helps solve a mystery, uncovers a Nazi hiding in the countryside, and learns French–which is an added bonus in this story, as you learn it right along with him! Ages 9+

Surrender, Robb White
Forty-two years after Liz read this book she still has vivid memories of a tense and thrilling survival story of two children separated from the American camp and surrounded by hostile Japanese troops.  Recently this book has been getting rave reviews by boys in the library.  Ages 11+

The Ark, Margot Benary-Isbert
Set in the tumultuous aftermath of WW2, a family from East Germany settles in a new city in West Germany.  This story gives unusual insight into the situation of living in a defeated country, as well as the grim fact that peace for people’s lives doesn’t follow just because it has been declared for the country.  Ages 12+

Number the Stars, Lois Lowry
Newbery Award Winning tale of a Danish girl whose family helps Jewish refugees escape.  The young heroine is caught up in the intrigue when her best friend’s family must flee.  This book ignited my life-long interest in WW2 especially the Resistance movements–spurring me on to put others above myself and consider how I would act even if my own life might be in peril.  Ages 8+

All Those Secrets of the World, Jane Yolen This is a wonderful, picture book introduction to the war, providing a glimpse into the lives of American mothers and children left behind when the men go off to war.  One of the secrets of the world is learning perspective–literally and figuratively, which is also a matter of perspective.  Ages 4+

Twenty and Ten, Claire Huchet Bishop This is for beginning chapter book readers, is only about 80 pages in length, but gives such a good example of courage as 20 French students hide 10 Jewish children right under the noses of the Nazis. Ages 6+

6 thoughts on “Top Picks: World War Two Historical Fiction

  1. I can't find Chestry Oak for cheaper than $75!!! Do you have a similar list for WWI? Or Vietnam? I find the more recent the event, the harder it is to find wonderful living books, perhaps because they haven't been written yet.

  2. It is worth every penny, but keep searching and one day you may find a bargain copy. In the meantime, can you do an interlibrary loan search throughout the country and find one somewhere?

    We will post a WW-I list soon; we have collected some gems. Vietnam might be a shorter list.

    Part of the problem is that the way childrens' books were written changed drastically between WW2 and Vietnam–so the living style that captures your heart and imagination is often missing from newer books on that conflict.

  3. I will keep looking. And yes, we'll ILL it for now.

    Being in a military family and a citizen of this country, I feel like we should cover the more current wars (Vietnam, Korea, Middle East, etc) but like you mentioned, it is HARD to find quality books. Most are technical and boring or extremely liberal and treats soldiers like the worst kinds of people. ARGH!!!!

  4. Emily and I are working on a list of modern war-related stories. I am fervently hoping some of our sons and daughters raised on living literature will pursue writing new books on this and other subjects. That will be a wonderful fruit for children in the next generations to be nourished on.


  5. In case anyone is still searching, The Chestry Oak is back in print! Purple House Press just re-issued it. Way less than $75 🙂

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