Memorial Day (and the weekend prior) is a good time to reflect on those who have given their lives for our freedoms. There are some very good books on these soldiers and the wars that they served in, or stories set during the time of these wars.
by Esther Forbes
1944 Newbery Medal
This book takes a minute. It doesn't start out as a story that grabs you (at least that has been my experience). But it is a wonderful book of historical fiction. Johnny is a silversmith in Boson just before the beginning of the Revolutionary War. This story encompasses all the big events that children are aware of - the Boston Tea Party, the ride of Paul Revere, and the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
Disney made a movie of this novel, it's quite good, probably because it was made in 1957. AFTER the book is read, it is a worthwhile movie to watch.
My Brother Sam is Dead
by James and Christopher Collier
1975 Newbery Honor Medal
This story delves into how war affects a family. The Revolutionary War tears apart the Meeker family and follows their lives through the war.
To note, this book has a history of being challenged. It has those who are opposed to it and would like to see it banned, mostly due to the fact that the Meeker family are Anglicans, and are opposed to the war. It is challenged because it has been considered to have "unpatriotic views of the American Revolution". Don't let it's "challenged" status stop you from reading this. It is a very deep work of historical fiction.
The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Beautiful artwork enhance the classic poem by Longfellow of the ride of Paul Revere.
My personal copy was purchased at the bookstore at the Old North Church in Boston. I love that fact about it.
Much has been altered in what we now think is the story of what happened that night because of this poem. Paul Revere was not the only rider out that night. William Dawes also rode in case one rider was captured. Longfellow said that he didn't intend the poem to be an accurate retelling of a historical event, but rather as a call of remembrance to patriotism and the tenacity of the American Spirit. His poem was published in 1960, just prior to the Civil War.
The River Between Us
by Richard Peck
This is a very different kind of "war" book. It is set during the Civil War but really follows events happening within a family in Southern Illinois. A definite must read. Unlike most other books you will read about war.
World War I:
Christmas in the Trenches
by John McCutcheon
Truce: The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting
by Jim Murphy
Both of these books tell the story of the spontaneous Christmas Day truce in 1914 between two sides of "enemies".
Christmas in the Trenches is a beautiful picture book. Truce is a longer, non-fiction account of the event and the events that led up to the Christmas Day truce.
A Poppy is to Remember
by Heather Patterson
A beautiful picture book, great for younger children.
In Flanders Fields: The Story of the Poem by John McCrae
by Linda Granfield
This book tells how the famous poem came to be written, as well as details about the war, and what life in the trenches was like. It is a good read to try to help us understand all the sacrifices that were made by those who fought for our freedoms.
by Michael Morpurgo
For the older reader, this is one of the best war stories I've ever read. It tells the stories of brothers Charlie and Tommo Peaceful, and their experiences prior to and during World War 1.
World War II:
There is so much written for children regarding World War II, or books that take place during the time of the War. Much of it is very good. I have a child who has been very interested in all things WWII. These are several that I am fond of.
Harry Mazer has written some good reads on World War II, here are a series of three:
A Boy at War
Adam and his family live in Honolulu and he witnesses the bombing of Pearl Harbor, in which his father is killed.
A Boy No More
Adam and his family leave Hawaii and head to California. Adam helps a friend find his father who has been placed in the Manzanar internment camp.
Heroes Don't Run
Adam Pelko enlists in the Marines, and is sent to fight in Okinawa.
Under the Blood-Red Sun
by Graham Salisbury
Another story set in Hawaii during the attack of Pearl Harbor. Tomi is American born Japanese, it delves into the difficulties faced by American Japanese during the war.
Twenty and Ten
by Claire Huchet Bishop
I remember my oldest brother reading this book, and that cover is still firmly in my mind:
Scholastic printed a copy and retitled it The Secret Cave
Based on a true story of 20 French children hiding 10 Jewish children while the Nazis come to their town. This is a great story of heroics. This book is getting harder to find, grab a copy while you can!
The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips
by Michael Morpurgo
You must read this! Really you must! This one is great for younger readers.
This story is told by a young girl in the English countryside where her family's farm is needed as a training ground for American soldiers who will eventually fight in the invasion of Europe.
Maus I: My Father Bleeds History
Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began
Both books are graphic novels by Art Speigelman. These are for older readers - teens and adults. These are not for young children, which many people don't understand since they look like comic books!
Art Spiegelman tells the story of his relationship with his aging father, and his father's experiences as a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe. The events are harrowing, brutal, and deeply moving. Akin to Elie Wiesel's NIGHT. These two books are extremely powerful.
Sadly, I cannot think of a single book for children on the Korean War.
10,000 Days of Thunder: A History of the Vietnam War
by Philip Caputo
A good non-fiction account of the Vietnam War for young readers.
Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam
by Watler Dean Myers
A picture book that captures a soldiers fears during the Vietnam War. A good book for older readers, even though a picture book, not for a young child.
I Am A Seal Team Six Warrior: Memoirs of an American Soldier
by Howard E. Wasdin with Stephen Templin
This is a special edition for young readers (middle school/high school) of the book
Seal Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy Seal Sniper
This special edition follows a young man's training to become a Navy Seal and eventually part of the most elite team, Seal Team Six. There are many toned down stories, but it still follows the battles and incidents of the soldier at the Battle of Mogadishu and other incidents.
I want to end with a thank you to those men and women in service and those 1.25 million Americans who have fought and died for my freedoms.