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World War II graphic novels

This quarter in fifth grade, we’ve been reading Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars, and my students were ready and curious to learn about World War II. I’m a big fan of Number the Stars, but I noticed that during my lectures, students kept saying that the supplemental books I had given them had already taught them about the topics I was bringing up. What stroked my teacher ego more was that they were referencing graphic novels, which only reinforced my opinion of the value of that genre. Here are the books that worked best in my classroom.


MausThe Jewish Experience

Maus by Art Spiegelman
A classic and an almost too obvious choice, but my students couldn’t put it down. More than one student told me, “This book is really heavy but really good.” Whenever a question about the Nazis arose, very often whoever was reading Maus would pick it up and answer the question by showing a specific page or event. It was an easy way for them to experience history without seeing the real gruesome images.


GaijinThe Japanese American Experience

Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner
Based on the author’s family history, this is a story of a half-Japanese boy sent to an internment camp.  Set in San Francisco’s Bay Area, it focuses on Koji Miyamoto’s experience with the growing racism in America and internment camp. It does have mild bad words and a dream sequence where his white mother is kissing other men, so this is a book that necessitates a group conversation beforehand.


The WallThe Aftermath of World War II

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sís
This graphic memoir looks like a children’s book, but it’s rich in text and information. The book chronicles the author’s childhood, adolescence, and adulthood under the Soviet Union’s rule. Each page has a short piece of his life story as well as multiple captions explaining the common daily life of others.  Sis also includes excerpts from his journal, which offers further insight and quickens the story line.

I’m thrilled that this curriculum worked out so well and look forward to using these books again next year. If you know other great books about World War II, please share them in the comments!

Briana Chan About Briana Chan

Briana Chan is an elementary school teacher in California.

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