World War II

Letters from the Lighthouse

Emma Carroll

This delightful new book is an excellent text for encapsulating experiences of World War II from the viewpoint of children. It tells the moving story of Olive and her brother Cliff as they leave the heavily bombed streets of London and become evacuees on the coast of Devon, sent to live with an enigmatic lighthouse keeper. Soon Olive finds herself caught up in a dark mystery linking the disappearance of her sister Sukie with a strangely coded message. Letters from the Lighthouse is an incredibly empathetic story that not only portrays the hardships of life during the war but also poignantly explores the anguishing encounters of refugees looking for safety in new places while carrying with them the heartbreak of leaving a war-torn home behind. We highly recommend this story for upper KS2 classrooms. 

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Carrie's War

Nina Bawden

Carrie's War is a very popular choice for upper KS2 classes.  It tells the story of World War II evacuees Carrie and Nick, who are sent to a small town in Wales under the care of the formidable Mr Evans and his timid sister. Follow their adventures as they make new friends and enemies and experience what it might have been like to be a child evacuee during the war. There is also an accompanying Read & Respond guide (click to view on Amazon) available. 

Our Castle by the Sea

Lucy Strange

Set in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II, the story follows 12-year-old Pet, who lives in a lighthouse on the south coast of England. Pet grew up hearing stories of ancient sea monsters, legends of 'Daughters of Stone' and whisperings of secret tunnels.

Now, as the war breaks out, childhood stories give way to terrifying real life battles as German war machines lurk in the skies above and the sea below. Fear is in the air and it is not long before the people of the nearby village turn on Pet’s mother, who is German. A gripping mystery slowly unravels as Pet discovers a set of mysterious family documents and photographs hidden away in the lighthouse.

Bringing together an evocative wartime setting, relatable themes and a sprinkling of ancient legend, this is a riveting read that I’m certain will delight teachers and children alike in KS2 classrooms.


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The Lion and the Unicorn

Shirley Hughes

The Lion and the Unicorn is a beautifully illustrated picture book about a young boy whose father goes off to fight in the war. It is the story about the loneliness and sadness experienced by children during the Second World War, but also about different kinds of courage.

Goodnight Mister Tom

Michelle Magorian

 This moving and evocative novel has won the Guardian Children's Fiction Award. Goodnight Mister Tom tells the story of a young boy called Willie Beech, who is evacuated to the countryside during World War II, and the relationship he develops with his new carer Mr Tom. There is also a very good film version (click to find on Amazon) available and a supporting planning sequence available from CLPE. 

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I am David

Anne Holm

This is the story of twelve-year-old David, who manages to escape from a harrowing concentration camp in which he has spent his whole life. As David journeys across Europe to find a new home in Denmark, his new sense of freedom is overwhelming for him as he navigates a new world of colours, sounds and smells. Not knowing who to trust, David is truly alone and begins to realise that his experiences have made him a stranger to the outside world. This deeply thought-provoking novel explores the highly topical themes of refugee survival and what it means to be human in the wake of wartime horrors. 

The Emergency Zoo

Miriam Halahmy

There are a number of quality texts for children about World War II but The Emergency Zoo tackles this immense historical topic from a new angle: what happened to pets as the war broke out. This story follows a group of children who have to act quickly when an order for pets to be put down is issued at the dawn of World War II. Suitable for upper KS2, this book tackles some difficult issues with skill and an appropriate poignancy that will draw its readers along and leave them wanting more at the end of each chapter. We really like the way in which this text opens discussions about the war through the starting point of an issue that really mattered to children.

My Secret War Diary, by Flossie Albright

Marcia Williams

This is a highly recommended diary-style text by the popular author-illustrator Marcia Williams. It recounts the experiences of a nine-year-old girl during the Second World War and is presented with cartoon style illustrations, flaps, envelopes and a wealth of details about life for children during the war. My Secret War Diary, by Flossie Albright is a superb text to use to inspire recount or diary writing.

The Buried Crown

Ally Sherrick

The Buried Crown is a hugely exciting adventure set in World War II. The story centres on George Penny, a young Londoner who has been evacuated to the countryside. George befriends Kitty, a German Jewish girl who has been moved to the relative safety of her grandfather’s English home under the Kindertransport programme. Kitty’s grandfather is an archaeologist and it is from him that George comes to learn about a mysterious Anglo-Saxon crown carrying an ancient legend. Before long, George finds himself involved in an exhilarating plot to save the crown from falling into the hands of Nazi invaders. This is a gripping read that is highly recommended for upper KS2.


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Tail-End Charlie

Mick Manning

Fiction meets non-fiction in this exciting retelling of experiences from an RAF Air Gunner during World War II, presented in a comic book style. Tail-End Charlie is an accessible book with a high visual appeal and a great way of hooking in younger or more reluctant readers. 

Woeful Second World War

Terry Deary

Part of the very popular Horrible Histories series, this book allows children to uncover all of the gory and foul facts about the Second World War. This edition of Woeful Second World War has been redesigned in 2016, giving a fresh appeal to a classroom classic.

Jet the Rescue Dog

David Long & Peter Bailey

It is not difficult to find stories about war heroes, but what about when the heroes are animals? This collection compiles true tales of a whole menagerie of courageous creatures that have made their mark during war time. The animals include a bear who carried shells to the Allied troops in World War II, a horse who assisted American marines during the Korean War and an Alsatian who aided the search and rescue mission after the 9/11 attacks in New York. These compelling and astonishing true stories suitable for KS2 highlight the extraordinary bond between humans and animals even in the darkest of times. Many (but not all) of these stories are set in WW2.​

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