Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Last Minute Gifts: Build Your Own Boxed Sets--World War II Fiction

For middle and young adult readers, among the most popular of fiction subjects over the long term have been the poignant days of World War II. Here are some titles which have been critically well-received, sold millions, and consistently kept young people reading passionately for years.

As the Nazis invade Norway in the late winter of 1940, twelve-year-old Peter and Helga lead a heroic group of young Norse Resistance fighters as they smuggle Norway's national store of gold bullion on their small sleds down a mountain from its underground hiding place. Blessed with a rare spring blizzard and under the very eyes of the Nazi sentinels, the children pretend to race downhill daily to cache the gold beneath hastily constructed snowmen until it can be secretly transported out of the country. Marie McSwigan's Snow Treasure is a riveting retelling of the true story of a band of brave and resourceful children at a pivotal moment in the their country's history.

Ian Serailleur's Escape from Warsaw (Original title: The Silver Sword) recounts the true story of three Polish children, aged three to thirteen, who, hiding from the Nazis among the Polish Resistance for three years, are finally forced to flee Warsaw and make their perilous way to Switzerland to join their parents. Alternately threatened by local collaborators and sheltered by resistance sympathizers, the three stowaway on trains, trucks, wagons and river boats, starving but determined to be reunited with their family as the war moves into its dangerous last days.

Entranced with the romance of the heroic air war over Europe, sixteen-year-old Canadian teenager Kak falsifies his age and volunteers to fly with the Royal Air Force. As he confronts the reality of his almost certain death before the end of his bombing missions over Germany, Kak struggles with whether to save his own life by confessing his true age or to stick it out with the rest of his crew. Iain Lawrence's B for Buster is a gritty and realistic account of one young man's coming of age in the crucible of war.

Although discouraged from speaking his native Navaho as a child, at sixteen Ned Begay enlists with parental permission and is assigned to an early training group as a member of the Marine's Navaho "code talkers," those Native Americans who used their almost undocumented language to foil all attempts by the Japanese to break the American's code. In Joseph Bruchac's Code Talker: A Novel about the Navaho Marines of World War II, Ned sees chilling island-hopping action from Guadalcanal to Iwo Jima, only to be belatedly honored years later with his fellow Navahos for their critical role in victory in the Pacific.

Even though sixteen-year-old Eddy Okubo enlists in the U.S. Army just before Japan bombs Pearl Harbor, he can't shake the distrust and hatred of many of his fellow white Haole troops, even when he joins a special team which requires the Japanese-American soldiers to act as human bait for the new K-9 corps being trained in Mississippi. Although Eddy and his team display great courage during their training, it is only when their Nisei unit becomes America's most decorated in the European theatre that they are respected as loyal citizens in Graham Salisbury's gripping Eyes of the Emperor.

Jack Raab is only fifteen when he uses his older brother's birth certificate to enlist in the U.S. Air Corps and becomes a crew member on a B-17 based in England. Jack's crew survives one ditching in the the North Sea, only to be reassigned to a new plane and sent on a midnight run over Pilsen, Czechoslovakia. Jack is the only member of his crew to survive as he bails out, is captured by the faltering German Army, and eventually escapes to rejoin the Allies forces as Germany begins to fall. But in Harry Mazer's The Last Mission, young Raab, just turned sixteen, must decide whether to admit his true age and go home or be sent to fight in the final days of the air war over Japan.



  • Just wanted to say I really enjoy your blog. I can see you have a real passion for children's books!

    By Anonymous lotzafunbooks, at 2:20 PM  

  • There are a number of WWII topics that would make good subject matter for books that sadly will never be written or reviewed here. For example, the Prime Minister of the same Norway producing the heroic children, Mr. Quisling, was a total coward who sold out his country to the Nazis. Then there was the champion appeaser of all time, Neville Chamberlain, who authored the phrase favored by the cowardly appeasers of our day: "peace in our time."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:39 AM  

  • Dear Anonymous,
    Quisling and Chamberlain would be the stuff not of novels, but of non-fiction, of course.

    Still, Quisling would be a great character study! Or how about an opera, combining Quisling's slimy deals with the Nazis and the brave children's sled brigades and snowmen!

    At least Q. is memorialized with the word created to recall his dishonor!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:28 PM  

  • i love this article

    By Anonymous ליצנים, at 5:19 PM  

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