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
Allies explores D-Day from the perspective of multiple people: a German-American soldier, a Canadian paratrooper, a girl in the French resistance, a black American medic, and more. Grab the novel study here.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (young adult version)
Louie Zamperini has one of the most incredible stories from the war. Louie Zamperini was an Olympian before signing up for the army when WWII broke out. After surviving 47 days adrift in the Pacific Ocean, he and a friend were captured as prisoners of war by the Japanese. What follows is an incredible tale of resilience and redemption.
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.
No Better Friend: Young Readers Edition by Robert Weintraub
For kids grades 5+, this is a great story about a radarman in the British Air Force and his dog Judy, who met as POW during WWII.
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.
Lilly’s Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff
Growing up on the home front, ten-year-old Lily has a 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 War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Ten-year-old Ada has never left her little apartment. She has a crippled foot that her cruel mother is too embarrassed to let anyone else see. When her brother is evacuated to London, Ada decides to go with him. This Newbery Honor book is engrossing and a must-read.
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.
Women Heroes of WWII by Kathryn Atwood*
This collection of 26 women from WWII is definitely not your average biography book. The stories are extremely interesting and profile brave and admirable women. Meet a teenager who hid 13 Jews in their attic for over two years. Meet a college student who was executed for spreading anti-Nazi leaflets. There are also extra resources so you can look into your favorite stories, either by watching the movie or reading more books. There is also a book of Women Heroes in the Pacific Theater.
Code Name Pauline by Kathryn Atwood
Pearl Witherington Cornioley shares her remarkable story of her experience as a special agent for the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). From a difficult childhood to her recruitment as a special agent and the logistics of parachuting into a remote rural area —each chapter also includes helpful opening remarks to provide context and background on the SOE and the French Resistance.
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 is 1942. Korinna is one of the 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?
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
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 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. Grab the novel study here.
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.
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. This is one of my favorites and I would highly recommend it! Grab my novel study here.
Historical Movies for Middle and High School Under R
Thank you so much for your recommendations! My 11-year-old daughter and I were just talking about her love of WWII books today and how she needs recommendations! She has read Number the Stars and Making Bombs for Hitler and the War that Saved My Life. I have a website for parents of tweens and I love to recommend books – I am also a book nerd and lover of history!
Thanks, I hope she enjoys some of the ones on this list! I’ve heard Making Bombs for Hitler is good! 🙂