First as a student and then as a history major, I spent many years studying the terrors and challenges of wars. While I may never be able to fully wrap my mind around the hows or whys of war, one thing is easy for me to understand: war veterans are heroes and their experiences personalize war in a truly powerful way. For this reason, I have always turned to books, both fiction and non-fiction, written by those with a firsthand knowledge of war or by authors whose research allows them to delve deep into the complexities of armed conflict to inform my understanding.
As today is Veterans Day, one way in which we can honor veterans is to read about different kinds of war and war experiences. A great resource is Scholastic’s “A Guide to Teaching and Talking About War with Books for Children and Teens.” This comprehensive discussion guide helps young readers explore the many difficult issues and themes inherent in war according to their age and level of understanding. It also provides a great opportunity to talk with kids about war.
Here are just a few recently published books featured in the discussion guide.
Year of the Jungle by Suzanne Collins, illustrated by James Proimos (Ages 4 and up): Based on her own childhood, award-winning and bestselling author Suzanne Collins creates a powerful and relatable portrayal of the effects of having a loved one at war in Year of the Jungle. The book is illustrated by Collins’s longtime friend and acclaimed picture book author-artist and television writer/animator James Proimos, whose bright and energetic artwork provides a friendly entry into a book that will speak to any child who has had to spend time apart from a loved one. (You can read a recent Q&A between the two of them here!)
I Survived #7: I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863 by Lauren Tarshis (Ages 7 to 10): In the seventh installment of the popular I Survived series, Tarshis transports readers to one of the most significant battles of the Civil War.
Dogs of War by Sheila Kennan, illustrated by Nathan Fox (Ages 8 to 12): Based on the real-life roles of military dogs that served as Red Cross rescuers, searchers, messengers, and scouts, Dogs of Waris a full color graphic novel written by Sheila Keenan about canine military heroes of World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War. Inspired by historic battles and real military practice, this collection of three fictional stories illustrated by Nathan Fox tells the adventures of a soldier and his service dog.
The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb (Ages 12 and up): Based on the adult bestseller Hunting Eichmann and illustrated with powerful photos throughout, The Nazi Hunters is a masterful work of narrative nonfiction for middle-grade and YA readers that chronicles the search for a notorious war criminal after World War II.
Hitler’s Secret by William Osborne (Ages 12 and up): Hitler’s Secret, which was longlisted for the prestigious Carnegie Medal in the United Kingdom, is the debut novel by British screenwriter William Osborne. Nonstop action and unexpected twists abound in this breathlessly paced tale about newly recruited spies on a deadly mission in Nazi Germany.
Invasion by Walter Dean Myers (Ages 12 and up): Invasion is the prequel to the classic books Fallen Angels and Sunrise Over Fallujah and once again explores the effects and horrors of war through young protagonists, this time set in World War II.
Click here to download the complete discussion guide.
OOM readers, what books do you turn to when you want to learn more about war?