Monday, March 28, 2011

World War II Days: Discover the Past with Exciting Projects, Games, Activities, and Recipes by David C. King, illustrated by Cheryl Kirk Noll

World War II Days: Discover the Past with Exciting Projects, Games, Activities, and Recipes is intended to give kids a sense of what life was like for young people during the war. There are 30 projects altogether, all with instructions and an explanation as to why they would be of interest to kids during the war. There is even a glossary at the end for words that may be unfamiliar to children.

The activities are presented as the book follows a year in the life of two families in 1942, and is divided into seasons. We meet the Donato family in the Spring and Summer. Frank Donato, 11, lives in an apartment in San Francisco with his parents, grandparents and sisters Julie, 6, and Theresa, 18.

The book moves from life in a city to life on a Minnesota wheat farm belonging to the Andersen family during Autumn and Winter. Shirley Andersen, 12, lives there with her parents, and 7 year old brother Edmund. Her older brother, Karl, joined the army air corps as soon as America entered the war, and the two farmhands joined the army shortly after that.

Each project, activity or recipe begins with a short historical introduction about what life was like for either Frank or Shirley. Since Frank lives in a city, he doesn’t have the land for an in the ground Victory Garden, but instructions are given for making one in a window box. This project also includes gardening tips and a recipe for a Victory Salad.

When Shirley’s brother Karl comes home from the army air corps on leave, he teaches Shirley and her friend Jodie how to make secret codes. There are a few examples of code projects, such a deciphering and communicating in secret codes that anyone can do.

One of my favorite projects is making a periscope. I remember doing this very same project in school for a science project and loving it.

The recipes are easy, but do require adult assistance. There is a recipe for Coney Island hot dogs, which I found tempting, even though I don’t eat hot dogs.

There are even directions for making games that children played during the war such as Ludo and Sea Battle, with instructions about how to play.

I have always liked activity books, and I guess I still do. When we had book fairs in school, I always bought at least one book with projects for kids to do and did many of them. Most kids get a great deal of satisfaction when they successfully complete a project and when I was teaching, I always gave an extra credit project that involved making something. I found that even the children who were really struggling with academics always responded to this kind of activity.

This book is highly recommended, and can even be adapted to the classroom use. In a way, it reminded me of the old Molly’s Craft Book from American Girl, which is probably still around here somewhere, and which we used quite a bit at one time. David C. King has written a number of books that cover different important periods in American history, all in the same format as this one, and I found all to be just as well done and interesting as World War II Days: Discover the Past with Exciting Projects, Games, Activities, and Recipes.

This book is recommended for children age 8 to 12.
This book was borrowed from the NYPL’s Children’s Center at 42nd Street, NYC.

Non-Fiction Monday is hosted this week by Practically Paradise


  1. I love books like this when I do unit studies. Thanks for sharing this one.

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Alex. Project books are incredibly helpful for teachers.

  3. These are great books. I know that are so helpful for teachers and fun for the kids too.

  4. This book sounds like a saner way to find out about life during WWII than joining "1940s House."