With news of violence in the Middle East dominating today’s headlines, and many thousands of military parents serving overseas, it is impossible for children and young adults to escape the reality of war. A considerable number of authors and publishers are taking steps to help them sort through the complexities of war through nonfiction books on conflicts past and present, as well as fictional stories ranging from the hauntingly real to the fantastical.
Scholastic’s various imprints have a startling 11 war-themed books due out in the coming months. “War is something that is on everybody’s mind today,” said publisher and editorial director David Levithan of the proliferation of titles. “I think everybody, including parents and teachers, feels very strongly that one of the best ways to help kids process these issues is within the context of books, and that’s done in different ways. Sometimes fiction can make war more accessible and understandable, since readers are able to get inside characters’ heads rather than just read the facts. Part of our mission at Scholastic is to publish responsible and contextual books that help kids make sense of their world, and war is a big part of the world.” Here is a sampling of war- and military-related children’s titles due out between August 2013 and January 2014.
Year of the Jungle by Suzanne Collins, illus. by James Proimos (Scholastic Press, Sept.). The author of the Hunger Games series offers an autobiographical picture book about a father who must go off to fight in Vietnam—and the daughter who stays behind.
Torn by David Massey (Scholastic/Chicken House, Aug.). In this debut YA novel set in war-torn Afghanistan, a young female British medic recruits an American Navy SEAL to help her find a missing Afghan girl.
Fallout by Todd Strasser (Candlewick, Sept.). In the summer of 1962, when the threat of nuclear war looms large, Scott’s father is the only one in the neighborhood who builds a bomb shelter and prepares for the worst—which comes to pass.
Brotherhood by Anne Westrick (Penguin/Viking, Sept.). In Reconstruction-era Virginia, Shadrach joins a group that purports to protect Confederate widows like his mother, but instead terrorizes the black inhabitants of the region, and he becomes desperate to break away from the dangerous faction.
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (Disney-Hyperion, Sept.). In this companion novel to Code Name Verity, Rose is captured by the Nazis while flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England. Sent to a concentration camp, she finds hope in the bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners.
Shadow Squadron: Elite Infantry by Carl Bowen, illus. by Wilson Tortosa (Capstone Young Readers, Oct.). When Lieutenant Commander Cross’s time in the armed forces comes to an end, he is given the job of commanding an elite squad of soldiers who tackle dangerous military operations.
No Surrender Soldier by Christine Kohler (F+W Media/Merit Press, Jan. 2014). Set in 1972 Guam and based on a true story, this YA novel centers on Kiko, a 15-year-old boy whose brother is MIA in Vietnam and who learns that his mother was raped as a teen by a Japanese soldier during WWII. When Kiko finds an old Japanese soldier living in the jungle behind his house, he sees his chance for revenge.
Russian Roulette by Anthony Horowitz (Penguin/Philomel, Oct.). Set in Russia during the perestroika era, this companion novel to the Alex Rider series tells the backstory of how Alex’s father came to mentor Yassen Gregoravich, the young man who infiltrated the government secret service’s military operations and would turn out to be the world’s most dangerous assassin.
A Medal for Leroy by Michael Morpurgo (Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends, Jan. 2014). Inspired by the story of Walter Tull, the first black officer in the British Army, this novel introduces a boy who is determined to right a wrong: his grandfather’s heroic actions in WWI went unacknowledged.
The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (Penguin/Viking, Jan.). In this YA novel by the author of Speak, a girl whose father suffers from PTSD after serving in Iraq longs for a normal life as she begins high school in a new town.
The Day My Father Became a Bush by Joke van Leeuwen (Gecko Press, Jan. 2014). Set in an unspecified country, this story centers on a girl who searches for her mother after her father goes off to fight in the civil war, hiding from the enemy by disguising himself as a bush.
The Fall of Five by Pittacus Lore (HarperCollins/Harper, Aug.). In the fourth novel in the I Am Number Four series, the Garde are finally reunited and getting stronger, but they may not be powerful enough to win the upcoming war against the Mogadorians.
A Radiant Sky by Jocelyn Davies (HarperCollins/HarperTeen, Sept.). In this conclusion to the YA trilogy that began with A Beautiful Dark and A Fractured Light, Skye is the leader of the Rogues and must prepare for the approaching war.
The Misadventures of the Magician’s Dog by Frances Sackett (Holiday House, Oct.). After Peter adopts a dog with magic powers, it promises to teach him conjuring to help bring his father home from the Middle East, where he is deployed in the U.S. Air Force.
Warrior by Ellen Oh (HarperCollins/HarperTeen, Dec.). In this installment of the Dragon King Chronicles, Kira, the demon slayer who fiercely protected her kingdom and the crown prince, has been transformed from outcast to hero.
World War II
Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II by Martin W. Sandler (Bloomsbury/Walker, Aug.). Drawing from interviews with Japanese-American survivors of internment camps, this book provides an account of their lives before WWII, during their imprisonment, and after their release.
Code Name Pauline: Memoirs of a World War II Special Agent by Pearl Witherington Cornioley (Chicago Review Press, Aug.). In this addition to the Women of Action series, the author tells of her work as a special agent for the British Special Operations Executive during the German occupation of France.
The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, Sept.). Illustrated with photos, this adaptation of the adult bestseller Hunting Eichmann is aimed at middle-grade and YA readers.
To Brave the Seas: A Boy at War by David McRobbie (Allen & Unwin, Oct.). In this novel featuring WWII memorabilia, a teenage boy joins Britain’s Merchant Navy and braves seasickness, submarines, and a shipwreck.
Hitler’s Secret by William Osborne (Scholastic/Chicken House, Oct.). Otto and Leni escape to England from war-torn Europe, only to have the British government recruit them to return to the continent—as spies.
Invasion by Walter Dean Myers (Scholastic Press, Oct.). This young adult prequel to Fallen Angels relays the story of two young U.S. soldiers—one white, one black—during the 1944 Normandy invasion.
The Extra by Kathryn Lasky (Candlewick, Oct.). In this survival story that imagines the lives of the gypsies who worked as extras for the Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, a girl escapes and runs for her life.
The War Within These Walls by Aline Sax, illus. by Caryl Strzelecki (Eerdmans, Oct.). Misha struggles to help his family survive in the Warsaw ghetto during WWII.
The School the Aztec Eagles Built by Dorinda Makana Nalani Nicholson (Lee & Low, Oct.) recounts the training and combat activities of the Aztec Eagles, a Mexican Air Force squadron, during WW II.
The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin (Macmillan/Roaring Brook, Jan. 2014). This Newbery Honor author relays the story of 50 African-American sailors who stood up for their rights and faced mutiny charges during WWII.
World War II, Book 1: The Right Fight by Chris Lynch (Scholastic Press, Jan. 2014). The author of the Vietnam series launches a new series with this novel about an American baseball player who joins the army to battle Nazi troops.
Vietnam War by Gary Jeffrey (Crabtree, Aug.). This addition to the Graphic Modern History: Cold War Conflicts series explains the origins of this conflict.
The Split History of the Battle of Gettysburg by Stephanie Fitzgerald and The Split History of World War I by Michael Burgan (Capstone Young Readers, Aug.). Each of these Perspectives Flip Books examines a topic from two opposing perspectives.
Civil War Witness: Matthew Brady’s Photos Reveal the Horrors of War by Don Nardo (Capstone Young Readers, Sept.). The Captured History series continues with this story about Brady’s work photographing Civil War battles.
Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue from War by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch (Pajama Press, Oct.). This true story examines one girl’s life in a Saigon orphanage, her dramatic rescue and relocation to North America, and her adoption into a loving family.
Profiles #7: War Spies by Daniel Polansky (Scholastic Paperbacks, Dec.). This addition to the Profiles series spotlights famous spies in history, including Sir Francis Walsingham, Nathan Hale, Belle Boyd, Virginia Hall, and Allen Dulles.
Duke by Kirby Larson (Scholastic Press, Sept.). To help the WWII effort while his father is away fighting, Hobie volunteers his dog to act as a military sentry in this middle-grade novel by a Newbery Honor author.
Dog Tags #2: Strays (Scholastic Paperbacks, Sept.) and Dog Tags #3: Prisoners of War (Scholastic Paperbacks, Jan. 2014) by C. Alexander London are additions to this series exploring the bond between soldiers and dogs in times of war. Strays is set in the jungles of Vietnam, and Prisoners of War takes place in a Belgian forest during WWII.
Darling, Mercy Dog of World War I by Alison Hart, illus. by Michael Montgomery (Peachtree, Oct.). Launching the Dog Chronicles series, this is the story of a British dog that is trained to find and lead medics to injured soldiers on the battlefield.
Dogs of War by Sheila Keenan, illus. by Nathan Fox (Scholastic/Graphix, Nov.). This graphic novel presents three stories about heroic military dogs in WWI, WWII, and the Vietnam War.