World War II
Booklist: Children's Books about World War 2
World War Two
World War Two was a global conflict that involved numerous countries fighting against each other - including the UK. Lasting between 1939-1945, life during the Second World War was often very difficult, both in the battlefields and on the home front. We've picked out a handful of recommended children's books that explore different aspects of life during the war. Look out for frozen expeditions, evacuee adventures, pioneering pilots and evocative descriptions of experiences of the Blitz in our hand-picked selection of children's books about WW2...
The Valley of Lost Secrets
Lesley Parr & David Dean
The Valley of Lost Secrets is a wonderfully warm book about rural life, village communities and how life really was for this community during World War II, as well as for the evacuated children. Jimmy and his younger brother Ronnie are evacuees. They find themselves with their schoolmates on a train to a small village in a valley in Wales, a world away from home in Islington, London. The country is at war but that’s not all Jimmy is worried about. He would rather be back with Dad and Nan than stuck with strangers in this odd place. The book is rich in historical detail about everything from food, religion and household routines to the importance of coal mining in the Welsh rural communities.
Our Castle by the Sea
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 will delight teachers and children alike in KS2 classrooms.
The Missing: The True Story of My Family in World War II
This is the true story of Michael Rosen's search for his relatives who went missing during the Second World War told through prose, poetry, maps and pictures.
Over many years, Michael tried to find out exactly what happened: he interviewed family members, scoured the internet, pored over books and travelled to America and France. The story he uncovered was one of terrible persecution and it has inspired his poetry for years since.
Here, poems old and new are balanced against an immensely readable narrative: both an extraordinary account and a powerful tool for talking to children about the Holocaust.
Goodnight Mister Tom
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 available .
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.
The Midnight Guardians
The book is set during the Blitz in World War II and follows an evacuated boy, Col, as he races back to London to save his sister from a bombing raid that may take her life. Col is supported by his guardians – his childhood imaginary friends. The historical element – enhanced by snippets of factual newspaper articles and leaflets from the time – is well written and stands side by side with the fantasy element rather than being a theme of the book
Mohinder’s War follows the journey of a young girl called Joelle, in the midst of Nazi-occupied France, who becomes unlikely friends with an Indian British RAF pilot.
The book tackles the issues many children faced in their war torn country and the risks people had to take in order to protect family, friends and strangers alike, knowing the consequences they could face. The narrative also gives children an insight into the role of soldiers from across the commonwealth. This aspect would provide a great opportunity for teachers and children to research the sacrifices made by these individuals and the impact this had on the war.
Letters from the Lighthouse
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 recommend this story for upper KS2 classrooms.
My Secret War Diary, by Flossie Albright
Illustrated chapter book
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.
Skyward: The Story of Female Pilots in WW2
The female pilots of the Second World War are honoured in this exciting, empowering book that shows young girls can achieve anything. The year is 1927, and in America, England and Russia, three girls share a dream: to fly. But it won’t be easy…
Against the odds, Hazel, Marlene and Lilya follow their hearts, enrolling in pilot courses and eventually flying for their countries in World War II. Join the adventures of these women as they display feats of incredible bravery in this beautiful book of sensitive and moving illustrations.
Woeful Second World War
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, giving a fresh appeal to a classroom classic.
Chapter book (dyslexia friendly)
This well-researched and highly readable novel takes its title from the name of the medal that honours the Arctic Convoys during World War II. The story, with its concluding Author’s Note and accompanying online teaching notes available from Tom Palmer's website, provides an exciting and informative classroom resource for the teaching of WWII as a curriculum topic, besides being a book many children will choose for the sheer enjoyment of reading. Winner of the BooksForTopics Book of the Year Award for Best Curriculum Support.
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.
The Lion and the Unicorn
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.
The Buried Crown
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 recommended for upper KS2 - and especially useful for helping children to make links between different periods of history.