Teach history through books! Here are my favorite age-appropriate World War II books for kids in elementary and middle school.
World War II Books for Kids
Farewell to Manzanar by James Houston and Jeanne Wakatsuki
Oftentimes, the Japanese internment camps are overshadowed by the Nazi concentration camps. In this memoir, we learn of one girl’s story before, during, and after the camps.
Willow Run by Patricia Reilly Giff
Willow Run was a real factory in Michigan during WWII that manufactured B-24 Liberator bombers. In this fictional story, it is the place 11 year-old Meggie has to live after her father gets a job there. Her brother is in the army and her uncle is German, making him a target for bullies. Meggie is a relatable, very real character with struggles, dreams, and fears – making this great for middle schoolers.
Growing up on the home front, ten-year-old Lily has the perfect life. Until her father is drafted. Sent away to live with her grandmother, Lily meets young refugee, Albert, and the two become friends. Conflict centers on Lily’s bad habit: lying. Patricia Reilly Giff is a very talented writer and how Lily’s story unfolds is both interesting and unique
The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Helmuth Hübener is a prime example that teenagers can make a difference! This is a fictionalized biography. Teenager Helmuth and two friends secretly created an anti-Nazi pamphlet and spread it all over Germany. This book gives an accurate portrayal on how he became involved in his own resistance, what he must have felt in prison, and the courage he had that so many other adults didn’t.
Escape from Warsaw by Ian Serraillier
Joseph is sent to a prison camp for being anti-Nazi and his wife is deported to Germany. Joseph escapes and heads to Switzerland and sends his three children – Ruth, Edek, and Bronia – to meet him in Switzerland. Filled with adventure, this book is loosely based on a true story and is one of my favorites! It was originally called The Silver Sword.
Holocaust Books for Kids
Daniel’s Story by Carol Matas
Part Elie Wiesel and part Anne Frank, Daniel’s Story is the story of young teenager Daniel. The chapters are divided into 4 parts: Pictures of Frankfurt, Pictures of Lodz, Pictures of Auschwitz, and Pictures From Buchenwald. The story opens with 14 year old Daniel in a train, headed to a place no an unknown destination. His journey is told in an unflinching but age-appropriate manner, best for late elementary and middle school.
Behind the Bedroom Wall by Laura Williams
It’s 1942. Korinna is one of millions of German children caught up in the fanatical Hitler Youth. However, Korinna’s parents couldn’t disagree more with Hitler and his fanatical ideas – they have a Jewish family hidden in Korinna’s bedroom wall. Will Korinna turn her parents in, or will they get caught on their own? If they do, what happens to Korinna?
This classic Newbery Winner tells the story of the Danish Resistance. In real life, the Danish Resistance rescued 99% of its Jewish population.
This story is about the fictional Annemarie Johansen, who helps her Jewish friend and neighbor Ellen escape to the neutral Sweden. I’d highly recommend this great story filled with adventure and courage! It does not play down the danger but isn’t graphic, making this a perfect introduction to the Holocaust.
Could your 8 year-old self live in a forest alone, undercover, and with only one arm? Srulik is a young Jew who goes undercover as a Pole. He faces many challenges – finding food, avoiding anti-Semitism, the Nazis, the harsh Polish winters. As if that wasn’t hard enough, he loses his arm in a freak accident.Oh, and did I mention it is based on a true story?
This book has some profanity and sexual content, but it’s truly an amazing story that I thought was worth mentioning. There’s also a movie, which is on Netflix.
Once by Morris Gleitzman
Felix is a young Jewish boy hiding in a Catholic orphanage. He’s completely oblivious to the war, and why he is where he is. This quartet allows readers to explore the Holocaust with Felix, including some of the more gruesome parts that make it best for middle school and up.
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
This semi-autobiographical story tells the story of how young Anna and her family embark on a journey to free Switzerland before the war breaks out. Anna brings an innocent perspective to the war. It’s told from the point of view of a nine year old, and the age range is around 8-12.
This is the true story of Jack Gruener, who survived ten different concentration camps before reaching 18. This is his story of will, survival, and hope against all odds. I would highly recommend it!