Friday, June 17, 2011

Summer Reading

When I tell people that my blog focuses on books written for kids and teens that are set in World War II, their initial response is always “Are there really that many books about it?” My answer, to their surprise, is “Yes, there are that many and each looks at that long, terrible war in a different way.”

And now that schools are beginning to get out and summer vacations are starting, the bookshops have all put out their Summer Reading displays. I was browsing around my local store the other day, looking to see what was new and exciting to read. As I looked over the reading table that had books that met summer reading requirements for students, I noticed that among the books was more that just a smattering of World War II stories, some of which are old standards, along with others that are relatively new. 

Fiction (for MG and YA readers):
The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Missing in Action by Dean Hughes
The Cay by Theodore Taylor
Under the Blood Red Sky by Graham Salisbury
Milkweed by Jerry Spinnelli
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
The Romeo and Juliet Code by Phoebe Stone
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl; the Definitive Edition by Anne Frank

On another display table were books for older readers.  Among them were

Fiction (for teens and adult readrs):
Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada
Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
The Last Time I Saw Paris by Lynn Sheene
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory by Ben Macintyre This is an interesting story that I first heard of when I reviewed Strange but True Stories of World War II by George Sullivan. I am really looking forward to reading this new book now.
Unbroken: a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
In the Garden of the Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson
Children and Fire by Ursula Hegi

There were actually other World War II books on display, but they were more of a military nature, not really the kind of books that appeal to most teens or even young adults or me, for that matter. And non-fiction doesn’t seem to fare as well as fiction for younger readers either. I have also noticed this whenever I look for books for Non-Fiction Monday.

Stories about World War II show us the best of humanity and the worst. They do not purport to answer the big questions about this war; rather, each book gives us a window though which we can witness the world at that time and hope that they make enough of an impression on readers so that this history does not repeat itself ever again.

What are you going to read this summer?


  1. Very interesting list! Of the ones you mention I am going to read "Every Man dies alone" again -- there is a new German edition just out which apparently restores text that was cut immediately after the war when the book was first published. It is said to be "more raw, intensive and authentic" than the original version. I don'tknow what that means, but I am looking forward to finding out. I always thought it was a great book as it was. Primo Levi called it "the best book I have ever read about the German resistance," quite a testimonial.

  2. Between Shades of Gray is already a beloved book for a lot of readers. It will likely reach many more. The story and the characters are brimming with a potential that, in a lot of ways, was not fully realized.