17 Living Books about the World Wars for Middle School Kids

Nov 16, 2015

17 living books to teach kids about the world wars

Middle school is a great time to teach about the World Wars. 

During the middle school years, a child's mind is developed enough to truly appreciate and comprehend the issues of war. It is also a time when they can begin developing their own morals, thoughts, and feelings about such things.

By providing children with rich living stories, we are able to help them develop a mental picture of the time period and it's happenings. As well, through rich stories, portrayed through a character's eyes, we continue to develop empathy in our children.

17 Living Books about the World Wars for Middle School Kids

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World War I

The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy - A sequel to The Good Master, Kate and Jansci, now teens, learn about the realities prejudice when war comes to their Hungarian village. 

In Flanders Fields by Linda Granfield - Focusing on the 15-line poem "In Flanders Fields," this unusual book discusses the life and wartime experiences of Canadian poet John McCrae. 

The Silver Donkey by Sonya Hartnett - Set in WWI France, this superb story is about an English soldier, temporarily blinded by trench warfare, who attempts to get home. Three French children find him in the forest and care for him. His one keepsake,- a silver donkey, leads to him telling them beautiful moral stories from history of courage and faithfulness and humility, all of which include donkeys. 

What Tommy Took to War by Peter Doyle - This book looks at fifty objects with which every Tommy would have been familiar, from official uniform and equipment to good-luck charms and letters from sweethearts. With each artifact, the accompanying text explains the significance of all the things that, together, help to define him both as a man and as a soldier.

Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery - "Rilla of Ingleside" is a novel in the Anne of Green Gables series, describing the coming-of-age of Anne's youngest daughter, Marilla or Rilla. Set during the First World War in Canada, the narrative traces Rilla's development from a self-obsessed fifteen-year-old girl to a mature and brave nineteen-year-old. 

One Boy's War by Lynne Huggins-Cooper - Sixteen-year-old Sydney is overwhelmed by the excitement of the 1914 recruitment campaigns and the bravado of men leaving for the Great War. Bursting with enthusiasm, he runs away to join up but soon finds himself a long way from home in a frontline trench where reality — and the rats — begin to bite. Told through Sydney's optimistic letters home and his journal, this is a frank portrayal of the realities of life and death in the trenches of World War I.

World War II

The Winged Watchman by Hilda Van Stockum - Set in Holland during WW2, this is a story of bravery and faith in the face of great inhumanity.

The Borrowed House by Hilda Van Stockum - A teenage German girl, raised in the Hitler Youth, moves to Amsterdam were she realizes war is more than the proganda she's been taught. (Contains mature war-related themes such as gas chambers and starvation - ages 12+)

The House of Sixty Fathers by Meindert De Jong- Telling the tale of a boy hundreds of miles from his family, the author draws on his own experiences in China during the Japanese invasion.

The Avion My Uncle Flew by Cyrus Fisher - The hero in this story is a young boy who solves a mystery after discovering a Nazi hiding in the countryside.

Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan - The heroic (allegedly true) story of a group of school children, who transported gold bullion from a local bank to a camaouflaged ship, during the Nazi occupation of Norway.

Number the Stars by ois Lowry - A young girl and her family hide a Jewish girl to protect her from the Nazi party. 

Under the Blood Red Sun by Graham Salisbury - Written from the perspective of a 13-year-old boy of Japanese heritage whose life is drastically changed when the Japanese attacked America on December 7, 1941. 

Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop - Twenty school children hide ten Jewish children from the Nazis occupying France during World War II. 

Great Escapes of World War 2 by George Sullivan - 7 short non-fiction stories: British from German POW camp; Jew from Auschwitz; German from US POW camp; US from Italian POW camp; US from Japanese POW camp; Japanese from Australian POW camp.

Growing Up in World War II: 1941 To 1945 by Judith Pinkerton Josephson - A terrific supplemental resources for students about life in America in the 1940s. Includes photos, personal quotes, and descriptions of life at that time. 

Year of Impossible Goodbyes by Sook Nyul Choi - In 1945, 10-year-old Sookan's homeland of North Korea is occupied by the Japanese. Left behind while her resistance-fighter father hides in Manchuria and her older brothers toil in Japanese labor camps, Sookan and her remaining family members run a sock factory for the war effort, bolstered only by the dream that the fighting will soon cease.

I'm always looking for book recommendations. What would you add to this list?


  1. Thank you for this fantastic list of living books that cover different perspectives of WW1 &WW2! I have been searching for something just like this to use with my 12 yr. old son this year. Many thanks!

  2. Christine3/19/2018

    These our great. Thanks!

  3. Thank you this is a really good list. I think historical novels are such a good way to learn about the world. I shared your article on Facebook in memory of D-Day.


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