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Veterans’ Day reading

Today we honor veterans of past wars and those currently serving in the military. It’s a good day to share books about veterans, their experiences, and their sacrifices. These titles, both fiction and nonfiction for a range of reader ages, were all published in the last two years and recommended by The Horn Book Magazine.

In Knit Your Bit: A World War I Story by Deborah Hopkinson, Mikey’s mother and sister are knitting for the troops. Asked to join them, Mikey proclaims: “No way! Boys don’t knit.” Then Mikey’s teacher encourages students to participate in the Central Park Knitting Bee contest, and Mikey enlists his fellow boys. A wounded warrior encourages Mikey to keep at it: “if we each do a little, it makes something big.” Heavy on olive and khaki, Steven Guarnaccia’s illustrations indicate the WWI setting but also capitalize on white space, giving readers room to consider the book’s themes. (Putnam, 4–8 years)

Military Working Dogs have done everything from aiding the wounded during WWI to sniffing out explosives in Iraq and Afghanistan and helping humans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. Dorothy Hinshaw Patent’s accessible nonfiction book Dogs on Duty: Soldiers’ Best Friends on the Battlefield and Beyond traces the history of dogs in American wars and then outlines how a puppy becomes an MWD. “Hero Hounds” sidebars tell of individual heroic dogs. (Walker, 8–11 years)

Fifth grader Derek Lamb, protagonist of David Fleming’s The Saturday Boy, is having a hard time. He’s bullied and humiliated at school; he has a lot of trouble focusing and making good decisions; and his beloved father is serving as an Apache-helicopter pilot in Afghanistan. But though Derek’s dad is away, he is not absent: he and Derek write letters that Derek keeps in a lunch box to reread for comfort. Each letter contains a little bit of wisdom and love, which sustains Derek and provides a powerful emotional link. When Derek learns some devastating news, he garners comfort and strength from unlikely sources and expresses emotional insight that highlights his growth as a character. (Viking, 8–11 years)

Courage Has No ColorAll-black Army paratrooper unit the Triple Nickles never saw combat (white soldiers refused to fight alongside them, and they weren’t even allowed access to ammunition), but they helped to pave the way for a more integrated military in later wars. In Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles: America’s First Black Paratroopers, Tanya Lee Stone explores issues of segregation and stereotypes as well as WWII history, all brought to life with archival photographs and clear prose. (Candlewick, 11 years and up)

When Josiah “Woody” Wedgewood enlists in the army, he is immediately sent to England to prepare for the Normandy invasion, harboring only vague ideas about the nature of war. But when he lands on the beach in France, the stark reality of battle hits him. Facing terror, Woody questions what he’s doing, makes desperate pleas to God, and worries about when and where to go to the bathroom. In Invasion, author Walter Dean Myers vividly relates brutal battle scenes and wartime musings. But there’s also a sense of the times, such as the racist and xenophobic attitudes among Woody’s fellow soldiers. These Myers delivers subtly through Woody’s matter-of-fact observations as his ragged battalion fights its way through Normandy. (Scholastic, 11 years and up)

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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