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Posted on February 15, 2016 at 4:09 PM by Craig Jacobson
In the past year, a number of exceptional and award-winning books on the subject of World War II have been published for all ages. These stories range in genre from biography to realistic to alternate history. The large scale experience of World War II in the not-so-distant past allows for authentic and realistic stories to be told for future generations. Some of the stories below focus on well-known pieces of history, while others will expose events and perspectives you’ve never heard of until now.
Two of the biggest best-sellers in the past year for adults have been The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Both are excellent choices for more recent World War II fiction, but another title to try is The Last Flight of Poxl West by Daniel Torday. This novel recounts a multi-generational story of Elijah Goldstein and his hero, his Uncle Poxl. The story shifts back and forth between the past and the present as Elijah and Poxl come to terms with some hard truths of the war experience and how memories can be misleading. A second suggestions for adults is Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder. This nonfiction title focuses on how the events of the Holocaust came to pass, their ideological backgrounds and urges readers to learn from the past.
For young adults, M.T. Anderson’s Symphony for the City of the Dead was long-listed for the 2015 National Book Award and was an Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction finalist this year. This work combines history, biography, and music to tell the story of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich and the siege of Leningrad. Shostakovich’s seventh symphony, also known as the Leningrad Symphony, gained worldwide fame as a piece of music that celebrated and commemorated the city of Leningrad and its citizens. A second suggestion for young adults is Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. This new young adult historical fiction novel is set during the final months of the war in Europe as Russia is advancing west towards Germany. The book focuses on the stories of four young refugees: a Polish girl, a Lithuanian nurse, a Prussian art restorer, and a German soldier. Their paths intersect as they board a ship that will take them across the Baltic Sea to safety.
The final two selections are aimed at younger readers. The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley was selected as a 2016 Newbery Honor title and tells the story of a disabled young girl who escapes both London and her abusive mother to live in the English countryside to avoid the bombings in London. The girl and her younger brother have much to learn about a world that was closed off to them previously. Finally, an excellent nonfiction choice for younger readers is The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pederson and the Churchill Club by Phillip M. Hoose. Awarded a Robert F. Sibert Honor, the author uncovers the true story of how a group of young men in occupied Denmark became part of the resistance movement against Hitler Germany. The book includes many pictures to help illustrate the people, places, and events depicted and also contains first-person interviews with Knud Pederson and some of the other young men involved in the resistance movement.