In this list of well crafted and enduring stories of war, you will find age-appropriate recommendations that support school curriculum work. For the older readers, the books in this selection are a reminder to how war affects not only those on the battlefront and are relevant today considering the thousands of children and adults who have become refugees in recent years.
- Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes – Age group 10-14 years.
A gripping and moving novel by one of the world’s best-loved writers for children. From much-loved author, Shirley Hughes comes a thrilling World War II novel for children aged 10 and up. It is 1944 and Florence, Italy, is occupied by Nazi German forces. The Italian resistance movement has not given up hope, though – and neither have Paolo and his sister, Constanza. Both are desperate to fight the occupation, but what can two siblings do against a whole army with only a bicycle to help them? In extraordinary circumstances, people are capable of extraordinary things.
- Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden – Age group 9-11 years.
It is wartime and Carrie and her little brother Nick have been evacuated from their London home to the Welsh hills. In an unfamiliar place, among strangers, the children feel alone and find little comfort with the family they are billeted with: Mr Evans, a bullying shopkeeper and Auntie Lou, his kind but timid sister.
When Carrie and Nick visit Albert, another evacuee, they are welcomed into Hepzibah Green’s warm kitchen. Hepzibah is rumoured to be a witch, but her cooking is delicious, her stories are enthralling and the children cannot keep away. With Albert, Hepzibah and Mister Johnny, they begin to settle into their new surroundings. But before long, their loyalties are tested: will they be persuaded to betray their new friends?
- Friend or Foe by Michael Morpurgo. Age group 8-10 years.
Friend or Foe is a gripping World War 2 story from Britain’s best-loved children’s author, Michael Morpurgo.
Evacuated from London, David and Tucky feel like the war is a long way away from their new life in the countryside. Then one night the skyline of the moor is lit up with gun flashes, and the distant crump of bombing miles away brings the war back to them and shatters their new-found peace. When a German bomber crashes, the boys feel they should hate the airmen inside. But one of them saves David’s life.
- Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
Young Willie Beech is evacuated to the country as Britain stands on the brink of the Second World War. A sad, deprived child, he slowly begins to flourish under the care of old Tom Oakley – but his new-found happiness is shattered by a summons from his mother back in London.
Winner of the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award.
“An engrossing and poignant story, with much sunlight to balance the darkness.” — “The New Yorker.
- The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. Age group 12+.
‘Some things are just sitting there, minding their own business, waiting to be discovered. Like America. And other things are probably better off left alone’
Nine-year-old Bruno has a lot of things on his mind. Who is the ‘Fury’? Why did he make them leave their nice home in Berlin to go to ‘Out-With’ ? And who are all the sad people in striped pyjamas on the other side of the fence? The grown-ups won’t explain so Bruno decides there is only one thing for it – he will have to explore this place alone. What he discovers is a new friend. A boy with the very same birthday. A boy in striped pyjamas. But why can’t they ever play together?
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Age group 13+
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 meagre 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 neighbours 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.
Get your hands on these unforgettable stories by much-loved authors. Books available now. See you soon at Chapters!
If you like this list you might also like the following books which can be purchased on Amazon. Thank you for shopping by clicking our Amazon links because it helps us to earn a commission from Amazon. It is only a small reward for the time we spent compiling this list and will cost you nothing extra.
- A Little Love Song by Michelle Magorian – Age group – Older Teens
A classic young love story set in the middle of World War II
It is the summer of 1943, and war continues to rage. For Rose and her sister Diana, it’s a time of independence and self-discovery as they find first loves. But when Rose uncovers an extraordinary love story from another war, she is forced to question that love. Rose is about to discover a secret that will change everything. Michelle Magorian combines her rich style with a refreshing take on wartime women in this classic coming of age story.
True Stories of war
- Voices from the second world war – Witnesses share their stories with the children of today. Publishes in association with the award-winning children’s newspaper First News and The Silver Line.
A powerful, moving collection of first-person accounts of the Second World War. Contributors include a rear gunner who took part in sixty bombing raids, a Jewish woman who played in the orchestra at Auschwitz, a Japanese man who survived Hiroshima and Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved 669 children by setting up the Kindertransport program from Czechoslovakia. Many of the interviews were conducted by children, and the book is being published in association with award-winning children’s newspaper First News.
Categories: Non-Fiction For readers aged: 9+
The Diary of a young girl – Anne Frank
In July 1942, thirteen-year-old Anne Frank and her family, fleeing the occupation, went into hiding in an Amsterdam warehouse. Over the next two years Anne vividly describes in her diary the frustrations of living in such close quarters, and her thoughts, feelings and longings as she grows up. Her diary ends abruptly when, in August 1944, they were all betrayed.
Stories of animals in war
In the deadly chaos of the First World War, one horse witnesses the reality of battle from both sides of the trenches. Bombarded by artillery, with bullets knocking riders from his back, Joey tells a powerful story of the truest friendships surviving in terrible times. One horse has the seen the best and the worst of humanity. The power of war and the beauty of peace. This is his story.
War Horse was adapted by Steven Spielberg as a major motion picture with Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, and Benedict Cumberbatch. The National Theatre production opened in 2007 and has enjoyed successful runs in the West End and on Broadway.
A great way of introducing young readers to the realities of WWI. Look out for Morpurgo’s other war fiction including Friend or Foe, Waiting for Anya, King of the Cloud and An Eagle in the Snow.
War Horse is a story of universal suffering for a universal audience by a writer who ‘has the happy knack of speaking to both child and adult readers’ (The Guardian).
You might be interested in this current bestseller.