World War II was vast and happened on several continents, not just Europe! I’ve written a lot about WWII and the Holocaust, but there’s not that many booklists about the war in the Pacific.
While stationed overseas during WWII, a scared teenager from Kentucky meets a little girl who gently tends to his bug bites. The two form a bond as Tucky Jo endears himself to her family and begins to share his rations with them. This heartwarming tale about their unlikely friendship is based on a true story.
16 real-life and imagined voices tell the story of the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Each character brings their own viewpoint to the re-telling, including that of a Hawaiian native, a female mess attendant, a young child, a Japanese widow, and more.
WWII Books Set in the Pacific
In 1938, the world powers were engaged in a war of science. Who would be the first to develop an atomic weapon? Filled with tales of secret plots, espionage, and betrayal, this true story about the creation of history’s most infamous bombs will enthrall readers 10 and up.
A talented Olympic runner-turned-fighter pilot, Louis Zamperini found himself plunging into the Pacific Ocean one day in May 1945. Surprisingly, Louis survived the crash, although his plane did not. With only a tiny raft to keep him adrift, this brave soldier beat the odds to survive 47 days at sea, only to be captured and taken prisoner by Japanese forces. A remarkable true story with themes of sacrifice, grit, and the indomitable human spirit.
In February of 1945, six brave men raised the American flag on a hilltop in Iwo Jima after a day of battle fraught with devastation. The island was an important capture in the quest to ending the war, but it did not come without cost. Afterward, the bodies of soldiers littered the sandy beaches and several sustained injuries. Three of the men in the famous photograph did not make it off the island alive. James Bradley, son of one of these iconic men, weaves together the stories of the six men depicted in the photograph that now stands as a statue in Arlington, Virginia.
In 1942, Japanese soldiers descended on the Aleutian islands near the Alaskan coast in WWII’s only foreign invasion on U.S. soil. When their whole village is captured and its inhabitants shipped off to Japan as prisoners, Matt and Izzy find themselves in the fight of their life to survive. They must overcome their differences and come together to escape the falling bombs and enemy soldiers crawling all over their beloved homeland.
Sakado, a young girl living in Hiroshima, contracts “atom bomb disease” (leukemia) and suddenly finds herself unable to do the activities she is used to. She remembers the Japanese legend that states folding 1,000 paper cranes will give her a wish that will come true. With this in mind, she desperately begins folding paper and wishing to be well again.
After Sakado’s death, her classmates finished folding the remaining paper cranes, fulfilling Sakado’s goal to complete 1,000 of them. Then they began advocating for the construction of the Children’s Peace Statue, a stone work topped with a figure of a girl cupping paper cranes in her outstretched hands. Today this impressive work still stands in memory of Sakado and others like her who died as a result of radiation from the bomb that fell on Hiroshima.
Sun-hee struggles to understand why her Korean culture is being decimated in the wake of the country’s Japanese occupation. Her daily life has been greatly affected by the invaders, and now she and her brother must go to Japanese school, speak the Japanese language, tell Japanese stories, and even be called by Japanese names. Recommended for ages 10 and up.
Star Trek star George Takei describes his experiences in a Japanese internment camp in this brilliant graphic novel. There’s one used of “son of a b****” as a joke, but otherwise is a great thought-provoking story. I would recommend it for grades 6+ not because of content, but because of understanding. There’s a lot of complex topics that would be best discussed with teens. Grab the book guide here.
Told with free verse poetry, On the Horizon blends stories from victims of Pearl Harbor and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I’m usually not a fan of books told in verse poetry, but I really enjoyed this one. It’s a quick and powerful read. Grab the book guide here.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki Bombing
Desperate to end the war, President Harry S. Truman made the decision to drop two atomic bombs over Japanese cities in August of 1945. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the world have never been the same since. Readers will understand the context in which this fateful decision was made and will be able to examine the bombing and its after effects, from the moment of the dropping in 1945 up until today.
A nearly half-century old bonsai narrates this story, giving readers a unique perspective of the Hiroshima bombing and its aftermath. As the city begins to try to pick up the pieces, the family caring for the bonsai gifts the tree to the United States in a heroic show of peace and friendship.
On August 6, 1945, Junko Morimoto witnessed the world’s first atomic bomb falling from the sky and landing in Hiroshima where she lived with her family. The bomb was just the beginning of the devastation she would suffer as she watched her school’s recess field re-purposed as a crematorium and discovered that some of her playmates had perished. But in the midst of the untold horrors following the bombing, Junko and her resilient family worked to rebuild their lives and help their hearts begin to hope again.
Sachiko Yasui was only six years old when an atomic bomb fell on her city and changed the landscape of both her homeland and her life forever. She describes with vivid details the gripping true story of the few seconds that turned into a lifetime of trauma. After the bomb fell, Sachiko watched as neighbors, family members, and friends all fell ill as a result of radiation poisoning. She knew the world needed to know something: this could not happen again.