Skip to main content

WWII Literature Circles 2019: Book List

Documents

Book Choices

WORLD WAR II


 

A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen

The sudden construction of the Berlin Wall stranded her father and middle brother in West Berlin, while Gerta, her mother, and her older brother Fritz were stuck in Communist East Berlin. When life gets unbearable, Gerta, now twelve, and Fritz try to tunnel their way to the West. With the help of Fritz, the two siblings plan carefully, overcome dangerous obstacles, and then face the toughest task of all: convincing their mother to escape with them.

 

The Auslander by Paul Dowswell

When Peter's parents are killed, he is sent to an orphanage in Warsaw, Poland. But Peter is Volksdeutscher-of German blood. With his blond hair and blue eyes, he looks just like the boy on the Hitler Youth poster. The Nazis decide he is racially valuable. Indeed, a prominent German family is pleased to adopt such a fine Aryan specimen into their household. But despite his new "family," Peter feels like a foreigner-an ausländer-and he is forming his own ideas about what he sees and what he's told. He doesn't want to be a Nazi. So he takes a risk-the most dangerous one he could possibly choose in 1942 Berlin.

 

The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow

Fourteen-year-old Karl Stern has never thought of himself as a Jew. But to the bullies at his school in Nazi-era Berlin, it doesn't matter that Karl has never set foot in a synagogue or that his family doesn't practice religion. Demoralized by relentless attacks on a heritage he doesn't accept as his own, Karl longs to prove his worth to everyone around him. So when Max Schmeling, champion boxer and German national hero, makes a deal with Karl's father to give Karl boxing lessons, Karl sees it as the perfect chance to reinvent himself. But when Nazi violence against Jews escalates, Karl must take on a new role: protector of his family. Can Karl balance his dream of boxing greatness with his obligation to keep his family out of harm's way?

 

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetyz

This historical novel tackles Joseph Stalin's reign of terror. On June 14th, 1941, Soviet officers arrest 15-year-old Lina, her younger brother and her mother and deport them from Lithuania to Siberia. They work at a frigid gulag for eight months-hungry, filthy and brutalized by Soviet officers-before being taken to the Siberian Arctic and left without shelter. Lina doesn't know the breadth of Stalin's mass deportations of Baltic citizens, but she hears scraps of discussion about politics and World War II. Cold, starvation, exhaustion and disease claim countless victims. Lina sketches urgently, passing her drawings along to other deportees, hoping they'll reach Papa in a Soviet prison.

 

Book Thief by Markus Zuzak

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.  In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

 

 

 

The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson

Leon Leyson (born Leib Lezjon) was only ten years old when the Nazis invaded Poland and his family was forced to relocate to the Krakow ghetto. With incredible luck, perseverance, and grit, Leyson was able to survive the sadism of the Nazis, including that of the demonic Amon Goeth, commandant of Plaszow, the concentration camp outside Krakow. Ultimately, it was the generosity and cunning of one man, a man named Oskar Schindler, who saved Leon Leyson’s life, and the lives of his mother, his father, and two of his four siblings, by adding their names to his list of workers in his factory—a list that became world renowned: Schindler’s List.

 

The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

In the newly formed Third Reich, Hitler's initial political doctrine is filled with hopeful solutions for a country plagued with unemployment, poverty, and a post-World War I feeling of defeat. Propaganda and promises quickly turn to oppressive new laws including the required participation in the Hitler Youth. Helmuth Hübener enters the program and is at once impressed with the bravado, shiny uniforms, boots, and patriotic fever sweeping the country. But his Mormon-based teachings trigger questions in his mind about the reality behind the regime's invasions of neighboring countries, mistreatment of Jewish citizens, and closely controlled media.

 

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do. That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again. He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.

 

The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond

In 1943 sixteen-year-old Lucie Blaise is the newest recruit of Covert Ops, a secret espionage and sabotage organization of girls, and her mission in German occupied France is to track down information about a weapon that could wipe out all of Western Europe--and then dismantle it before it can be used.

 

The Diary of Ann Frank by Frances Goodrich

A thirteen-year-old Dutch-Jewish girl who recorded her thoughts and experiences while in hiding from the Nazis for two years before being discovered and taken to a concentration camp.

 

Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley

In the winter of 1945, on the tiny island of Iwo Jima, a ferocious, epic battle was fought, resulting in the loss of more than 48,000 lives and producing what was to become one of the most recognizable symbols of World War II: a photograph of six soldiers raising an American flag on the peak of Mount Suribachi. One of the six, Navy corpsman John Bradley, came away from this historical moment with a deep and mysterious silence about his role in the flag raising. Even his wife heard him speak of it only once in their 47-year marriage. After Bradley's death, his son James began to piece together the facts of his father's heroism, as well as that of the other five men, all of whom became reluctant heroes because of their presence during that fateful instant when the shutter clicked and created a wartime icon.

 

 

 

 

 

FlyGirl  bySherri Smith

Ida Mae Jones dreams of flight. Her daddy was a pilot and being black didn't stop him from fulfilling his dreams. But her daddy's gone now, and being a woman, and being black, are two strikes against her. When America enters the war with Germany and Japan, the Army creates the WASP, the Women's Airforce Service Pilots - and Ida suddenly sees a way to fly as well as do something significant to help her brother stationed in the Pacific. But even the WASP won't accept her as a black woman, forcing Ida Mae to make a difficult choice of "passing," of pretending to be white to be accepted into the program. Hiding one's racial heritage, denying one's family, denying one's self is a heavy burden.

 

Ghosts in the Fog by Samanth Seiple

Few know the story of the Japanese invasion of Alaska during World War II--until now. GHOSTS IN THE FOG is the first narrative nonfiction book for young adults to tell the riveting story of how the Japanese invaded and occupied the Aleutian Islands in Alaska during World War II. This fascinating little-known piece of American history is told from the point of view of the American civilians who were captured and taken prisoner, along with the American and Japanese soldiers who fought in one of the bloodiest battles of hand-to-hand combat during the war.

 

Hitler’s Secret by William Osborne

Otto and Leni thought they were safe: They escaped - barely - from war-torn Europe and are living as refugees in England. But now the Crown has recruited them: Great Britain wants them to go back to Germany. As spies!
Dropped behind enemy lines, Otto and Leni embark on a top-secret operation. Code name: Wolfsangel. Their mission? Capture the one person who can defeat the ultimate evil of Nazism. Will Hitler's final legacy lie in their hands?

 

Is it Night or Day? By Fern Chapman

In 1938, Edith Westerfeld, a young German Jew, is sent by her parents to Chicago, Illinois, where she lives with an aunt and uncle and tries to assimilate into American culture, while worrying about her parents and mourning the loss of everything she has ever known. Based on the author's mother's experience, includes an afterword about a little-known program that brought twelve hundred Jewish children to safety during World War II.

 

Lost in the Pacific, 1942 by Tod Olson

A true account of eight men who were lost at sea during WWII for three weeks after their plane crashed. The crew’s assignment was to fly Rickenbacker on a secret mission into the war zone in the Pacific. Instead, they got lost and, low on fuel, were forced to ditch the plane into the ocean. Struggling to survive in enemy waters, they wrestled with hunger, sickness, death, despair, sharks, the turbulent sea, and one another.

 

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman

Told with chilling realism in an unusual comic-book format, this is more than a tale of surviving the Holocaust. Each scene opens at the elder Spiegelman's home in Rego Park, N.Y. Art, who was born after the war, is visiting his father, Vladek, to record his experiences in Nazi-occupied Poland. The Nazis, portrayed as cats, gradually introduce increasingly repressive measures, until the Jews, drawn as mice, are systematically hunted and herded toward the Final Solution. Vladek saves himself and his wife by a combination of luck and wits, all the time enduring the torment of hunted outcast. Sequel Maus II A Survivor’s Tale My Father Bleeds History.

 

 

My Family for the War by Anne Voorhoeve

Before the start of World War II, ten-year-old Ziska Mangold, who has Jewish ancestors but has been raised as a Protestant, is taken out of Nazi Germany on one of the Kindertransport trains, to live in London with a Jewish family, where she learns about Judaism and endures the hardships of war while attempting to keep in touch with her parents, who are trying to survive in Holland.

 

Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb

In 1945, at the end of World War II, Adolf Eichmann, the head of operations for the Nazis' Final Solution, walked into the mountains of Germany and vanished from view. Sixteen years later, an elite team of spies captured him at a bus stop in Argentina and smuggled him to Israel, resulting in one of the century's most important trials -- one that cemented the Holocaust in the public imagination. This is the story of what happened between these two events. Survivor Simon Wiesenthal opened Eichmann's case; a blind Argentinean and his teenage daughter provided crucial information. Finally, the Israeli spies -- many of whom lost family in the Holocaust -- embarked on their daring mission, recounted here in full.

 

Once by Morris Gleitzman

When his Jewish parents place young Felix in an orphanage in war-torn Poland, they tell him that they must leave to fix their book business. Felix knows they will return. Curiously, one morning men in dark suits storm the orphanage and start burning books--these must be the people his parents have fled from. Others call these men Nazis; Felix doesn't understand. Determined to be reunited with his family and to save more books from being burned, Felix runs away. But during his travels he sees even more horrors: People are beaten, starved and shot. All because of books? Felix's misconceptions are heartbreaking, and readers will wince as he slowly and painfully gets closer to the truth.

Sequels: Then and Now

 

Playing for the Cammandant by Suzy Zail

A young Jewish pianist at Auschwitz, desperate to save her family, is chosen to play at the camp commandant’s house. How could she know she would fall in love with the wrong boy?


Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz

Based on the life of Jack Gruener, this book relates his story of survival from the Nazi occupation of Krakow, when he was eleven, through a succession of concentration camps, to the final liberation of Dachau. As a Jewish boy in 1930s Poland, Yanek is at the mercy of the Nazis who have taken over. Everything he has, and everyone he loves, have been snatched brutally from him. And then Yanek himself is taken prisoner -- his arm tattooed with the words PRISONER B-3087. He is forced from one nightmarish concentration camp to another, as World War II rages all around him. He encounters evil he could have never imagined, but also sees surprising glimpses of hope amid the horror.

 

Refugee by Alan Gratz

Josef is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world. Isabel is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety in America. Mahmoud is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe... All three kids go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge

 

 

 

The Right Fight by Chris Lynch

There are few things Roman loves as much as baseball, but his country is at the top of the list. So when it looks like the United States will be swept up into World War II, he turns his back on baseball and joins the US Army. Roman doesn't mind. As it turns out, he is far more talented with a tank than he ever was with a baseball. And he is eager to drive his tank right into the field of battle, where the Army is up against the fearsome Nazis of the Afrika Korps.The North African terrain is like nothing Roman has ever known, and desert warfare proves brutal. As Roman drives his team deeper into disputed territory, one thing becomes very clear: Life in wartime is a whole new ball game.

 

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women's concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?
 

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana DeRosnay

Pivotal to this novel is the key in ten-year-old Sarah's pocket. It opens the cupboard in which she has hidden her younger brother from the French police, who are rounding up Jews in Paris. It is July 16, 1942, and Sarah, along with her parents and hundreds more people, are brought to the stadium Vélodrome d'Hiver, where they spend several days without food or water before being sent to French camps en route to Auschwitz. Arriving at the camp Beaune-la-Rolande, Sarah is separated from her parents and manages to escape. Nearby farmers not only protect but eventually adopt her. In alternating chapters, we read of American-born journalist Julia Jarmond, who's working on a magazine story about the "Vel'd'Hiv" roundup on its 60th anniversary. Because the grandparents of Julia's husband moved into the apartment once owned by Sarah's family, we learn what Sarah discovers when she finally returns ten years later with the key-knowledge so traumatic that it changes Julia's life forever.

 

Soldier X by Don Wulffson

As World War II rages, sixteen-year-old Erik Brandt finds himself on a train traveling to Russia. He's one of the hundreds of thousands of German boys being sent to the Eastern Front by Hitler -- since no men are left to fight. Trained as an interpreter and not a soldier, Erik manages to survive the combat, but only by slipping into a dead enemy's uniform, and posing as a wounded Russian. Now the young German must keep up his charade

 

Unbroken: A World War Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

by Laura Hillenbrand

Hillenbrand examines the life of Louis Zamperini, an American airman who, after his bomber crashed in the Pacific during World War II, survived 47 days on a life raft only to be captured by Japanese soldiers and subjected to inhuman treatment for the next two years at a series of POW camps.

 

White Rose by Kip Wilson

Tells the story of Sophie Scholl, a young German college student who challenges the Nazi regime during World War II as part of the White Rose, a non-violent resistance group.