In Honor of the holiday here are some children’s books about war. I list them in chronological order of the wars they depict.
My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier.
The story of one family torn apart by the Revolutionary War. All his life, Tim Meeker has looked up to his brother Sam. Sam's smart and brave -- and is now a part of the American Revolution. Not everyone in town wants to be a part of the rebellion. Most are supporters of the British -- including Tim and Sam's father.
With the war raging, Tim knows he'll have to make a choice -- between the Revolutionaries and the Redcoats - and between his brother and his father.
This classic novel, published in 1974, is a Newbery Honor book that was also named an ALA Notable Children's Book and nominated for a National Book Award in 1975. The ALA reports that My Brother Sam is Dead was the twelfth most frequently challenged book in the period from 1990 to 2000, and the 27th most challenged book from 2000 to 2009.
My son Chris was assigned My Brother Sam in two separate school systems. He loved it.
The Civil War
Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco
Say Curtis describes his meeting with Pinkus Aylee, a black soldier, during the Civil War, and their capture by Southern troops. Based on a true story about the author's great-great-grandfather.
Under Siege!: Three Children at the Civil War Battle for Vicksburg by Andrea Warren
Meet Lucy McRae and two other young people, Willie Lord and Frederick Grant, all survivors of the Civil War’s Battle for Vicksburg. In 1863, Union troops intend to silence the cannons guarding the Mississippi River at Vicksburg – even if they have to take the city by siege. To hasten surrender, they are shelling Vicksburg night and day. Terrified townspeople, including Lucy and Willie, take shelter in caves – enduring heat, snakes, and near suffocation. On the Union side, twelve-year-old Frederick Grant has come to visit his father, General Ulysses S. Grant, only to find himself in the midst of battle, experiencing firsthand the horrors of war.
World War I
Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery.
This is the last book in the Anne of Green Gable series and I cannot tell you how many times I've read it. It is a clear and touching picture of the home front in Canada.
Rilla of Ingleside is available as a free eBook from Project Guttenberg
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
The terrible ravages of World War I as seen through the eyes of a Calvary horse. This book became a Tony Award winning play using puppeteers for the horse. Kathleen Kennedy was so moved by the play that she and Steven Spielberg made a movie of it. The movie is good, but can’t touch the power of the play.
World War II
by Eve Bunting, illustrations Steven Gammell
The Holocaust. Nobody can write a picture book about the Holocaust for kids. Right? Wrong! The incredible Eve Bunting can write about any subject for kids. The title link above is to GoodReads, but Terrible Things has been animated on Vimeo. Please watch it. Her language is simple, yet lyrical, the illustrations are beautiful and the book is a reminder of what can happen if we are not vigilant.
Last Page in the Diary by Colleen L Reece
Off to War by Deborah Ellis
What does it feel like to be left behind? To watch someone you love put themselves into danger on a regular basis? To find that the person who left is not always the same person who comes back? Author Deborah Ellis systematically speaks to a wide swath of soldiers’ children, always coming back to the same questions. What does your parent do? How long have they been gone? How much do you miss them? The reader never reads Ellis’s questions, only the responses of the kids.
(Spanish Edition: El Primo de Ebeneezer) by Kristen Zajac, Illustrated by Jennifer Thomas Houdeshell
Maria Jimenez and her dad share many things including a passion for going to see the monkeys at their local primate sanctuary. But when Maria's father returns home from military service with an injury, how will she find a way to help him recapture his spirit and independence?
And, by the same author:
by Kristen Zajac, Illustrated by Julie Tucker
Chasing the Spirit of Service was a 2011 Global eBook Award Winner, Multicultural Fiction. I love these two and bought both of them to share with my grandchildren.
Last but not least: One of our readers, Lynn Becker, mentioned IN DARKNESS, by Nick Lake.
The 2013 Printz winner is a beautifully written YA about gang war, and fighting for freedom from slavery in Haiti: