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Veterans Day 2018 reading

Today, Veterans Day, is a good day to share books about veterans, their experiences and sacrifices, and their supportive families and communities on the homefront. These titles, both fiction and nonfiction for a range of reader ages, were recommended by The Horn Book Magazine and The Horn Book Guide at the time of their publication; reviews are reprinted from The Horn Book Guide Online.

Primary

Hagar, Erin  Doing Her Bit: A Story About the Woman’s Land Army of America
32 pp.     Charlesbridge     2016     Trade ISBN 978-1-58089-646-7
Ebook ISBN 978-1-60734-872-6

Illustrated by Jen Hill. In 1917, college girl Helen Stevens joins the Woman’s Land Army of America to “do her bit” for the war effort at the Women’s Agricultural Camp in Bedford, New York. Hagar’s homespun narrative uses invented dialogue and details to spotlight an important moment in feminist history. Hill’s gouache illustrations are full of Rosie the Riveter–esque images in pastoral landscapes. Bib.

Hendrix, John  Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914
40 pp.    Abrams     2014     Trade ISBN 978-1-4197-1175-6

Hendrix distills the now practically mythic story of the 1914 Christmas Truce into the fictional experience of one English soldier in France writing to his mother about an unlikely day of fellowship with his German adversaries. While not shying away from war’s grim realities, Hendrix’s pictures go a long way toward conveying hope. A brief introduction and author’s note provide context. Bib., glos., ind.

Hopkinson, Deborah  Knit Your Bit: A World War I Story
32 pp.     Putnam     2013     Trade ISBN 978-0-399-25241-9

Illustrated by Steven Guarnaccia. His 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, and Mikey enlists his fellow boys. Heavy on olive and khaki, the illustrations indicate the WWI setting but also capitalize on white space, giving readers room to consider the book’s themes.

Kerley, Barbara  Brave like Me
48 pp.     National Geographic Books     2016     Trade ISBN 978-1-4263-2360-7
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4263-2361-4

Along with a comforting text, photos tell the stories of deployed parents and of the coping strategies of the children left behind. Men and women from many backgrounds remind readers of the variety of people who serve in this country’s military. This book will open eyes to the challenges families face when parents serve far away. Back matter includes a world map. Websites.

And The Soldiers Sang by J. Patrick LewisLewis, J. Patrick  And the Soldiers Sang
32 pp.     Creative Editions     2011     Trade ISBN 978-1-56846-220-2

Illustrated by Gary Kelley. This picture book for middle-grade readers offers a fictionalized account of the 1914 Christmas Truce of World War I. A Welsh soldier relates how British and German troops facing each other in trenches of the Western Front ceased their fighting on Christmas Day to engage in songs and friendly games. Kelley’s dark, somber pastel illustrations add intensity to this moving story.

Lewis, J. Patrick  Harlem Hellfighters
32 pp.     Creative Editions     2014     Trade ISBN 978-1-56846-246-2

Illustrated by Gary Kelley. The story of an all-black regiment is a revealing lens through which to view the Great War. Lewis brings a stark poetic sensibility to his topic; he references the irony of black men being shipped across the Atlantic, while in Kelley’s atmospheric illustrations enslaved men in shackles appear out of the mist. A needed antidote to sentimental WWI books of the centennial year. Bib.

McCormick, Patricia  Sergeant Reckless: The True Story of the Little Horse Who Became a Hero
40 pp.     HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray     2017     Trade ISBN 978-0-06-229259-9

Illustrated by Iacopo Bruno. During the Korean War, a U.S. lieutenant purchased a scrawny, skittish racehorse to haul supplies. In straightforward text, McCormick describes the training, feeding (eggs, coffee, Coca-Cola, and whatever else could be found), and notable accomplishments of “Private (later Sergeant) Reckless.” Illustrations in a palette of predominantly greens and browns employ replicas of historical artifacts to further set the scene for this engaging historical anecdote. Bib.

Messner, Kate  Rolling Thunder
32 pp.     Scholastic     2017     Trade ISBN 978-0-545-47012-4

Illustrated by Greg Ruth. In spare poetic verse, Messner pays tribute to U.S. military veterans. On his motorcycle, Vietnam veteran Grandpa meets his war buddies for the Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom demonstration. They ride into Washington, DC, where Grandpa is joined by his family at “The Wall” to honor those who lost their lives. Ruth’s muted, somber illustrations capture the emotions of the experience.

Montalván, Luis Carlos  Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond Between a Soldier and His Service Dog
40 pp.     Roaring Brook     2014     Trade ISBN 978-1-59643-891-0

Photographs by Dan Dion. With Bret Witter. Tuesday, a golden retriever service dog, narrates this sometimes funny, sometimes hard-hitting picture book, describing how he helps take care of disabled veteran Luis. Through engaging color photographs and a clear, compelling text, the book portrays the difficulties of a vet suffering from PTSD; readers also learn fascinating facts about service dogs. An appended author’s note explains more about Luis’s condition and Tuesday’s training.

Polacco, Patricia  Tucky Jo and Little Heart
48 pp.     Simon/Wiseman     2015     Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-1584-2
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-1587-3

A Kentucky soldier stationed in the Philippines during WWII befriends a little girl and plays a pivotal role in helping the girl and her fellow villagers survive. Years later, veteran “Tucky Jo” and “Little Heart” meet again, and a grown-up Little Heart returns the man’s kindness. Polacco’s signature pencil and marker illustrations, replete with detail and emotion, accompany this moving true story.

 

Intermediate

Alberti, Enigma  Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army  
96 pp.     Workman     2018     Trade ISBN 978-0-7611-9326-5

Illustrated by Scott Wegener. Spy on History series. This novel, with occasional comics-style illustrations, covers the fascinating history of the Ghost Army: the group of American sound engineers and artists, including Sergeant Victor Dowd, that deceived the Germans in WWII by setting up elaborate fake tanks and troops. An attached envelope contains spycraft materials, which add extra hands-on appeal as readers solve a hidden mystery; historical note appended. Bib.

Boyne, John  Stay Where You Are & Then Leave
247 pp.     Holt     2014     Trade ISBN 978-1-62779-031-4

Four years ago, nine-year-old Alfie Summerfield’s dad, Georgie, went off to fight in WWI. For a while, letters from Georgie came regularly. Then they stopped altogether. Now Alfie (accidentally) learns that Georgie is in a nearby hospital, suffering from shell-shock. The third-person limited narration keeps readers experiencing events solely from Alfie’s intelligent but childlike point of view.

Hopkinson, Deborah  Dive!: World War II Stories of Sailors & Submarines in the Pacific
366 pp.     Scholastic     Trade ISBN 978-0-5454-2558-2

Voices of sailors who served on submarines in the Pacific theater during WWII are highlighted and, along with numerous photographs, provide a vivid sense of immediacy. Various secondary sources, maps, and sidebars place the sailors’ experiences in the larger context of the war. An appealing, engrossing package for readers fascinated by heroism and military strategy. Timeline, websites. Bib., glos., ind.

Levy, Debbie  Soldier Song: A True Story of the Civil War
80 pp.     Disney/Hyperion     2017     Trade ISBN 978-1-4847-2598-6

Illustrated by Gilbert Ford. In December 1862, Union and Confederate forces made camp near Fredericksburg, Virginia. Excerpts of letters home, alternating between Confederate and Union soldiers, reveal parallel hopes and fears. And the beloved song “Home Sweet Home,” sung by soldiers on both sides, epitomizes that connection. Mixed-media collages layered on each page visually reinforce the theme: there can be overlapping commonalities even among enemies in war. Reading list, timeline, websites. Bib.

Lewis, J. Patrick  The Navajo Code Talkers
32 pp.     Creative Editions     2016     Trade ISBN 978-1-56846-295-0

Illustrated by Gary Kelley. Lewis and Kelley (And the Soldiers Sang; Harlem Hellfighters) respectfully relate the story of roughly 420 Navajo code talkers who helped the U.S. win World War II by using their native language for secret military communications. Lewis emphasizes the extraordinary nature of their achievement after a century of unjust treatment by the government. Kelley’s illustrations evoke classic (and violent) wartime images and Native American iconography. Bib.

Micklos, John, Jr.  Harlem Hellfighters: African-American Heroes of World War I
32 pp.     Capstone     2017.     Library binding ISBN 978-1-5157-3348-5
Ebook ISBN 978-1-5157-3350-8

Fact Finders: Military Heroes series. Aimed at third and fourth graders, this brief account of African American soldiers’ roles during the First World War touches on recruitment of a volunteer regiment in 1916, prejudice and hostility during training, and the regiment’s eventual combat in France. Archival photographs and sidebars provide additional insight. “Did You Know?” comments and Common Core–linked questions extend the informative text. Reading list. Glos., ind.

Nobleman, Marc Tyler  Brave like My Brother
106 pp.     Scholastic     2016     Trade ISBN 978-0-545-88035-0

This epistolary novel explores both the challenges of war for soldier Joe and the uncertainty for his ten-year-old brother Charlie of being on the home front during WWII. Joe’s letters describe life as a soldier stationed in Europe without sounding like a history book. The large font and Charlie’s clear, breezy letters make this accessible to young independent readers.

Wiechman, Kathy Cannon  Like a River: A Civil War Novel
336 pp.     Boyds/Calkins     2015     Trade ISBN 978-1-62979-209-5

Fifteen-year-old soldiers Leander and Polly (disguised as “Paul”) meet in a makeshift hospital in Rome, Georgia, during the Civil War and become fast friends. Individually, the characters journey through training, long marches, a stint in the Andersonville POW camp, and the explosion of the steamship Sultana. Rich historical details make this novel stand out. An author’s note (with archival photos) provides background information. Bib.

Wolk, Lauren  Wolf Hollow
294 pp.     Dutton     2016     Trade ISBN 978-1-101-99482-5

In 1940s Pennsylvania, vagabond WWI vet Toby is falsely accused of attacks carried out by new-girl Betty. As the crimes become more serious, tension builds. The storytelling is dignified; the tone is memoir-ish, as narrator Annabelle (another of Betty’s victims) remembers the story in the past. The portrait of sociopath Betty pulls no punches; unlikely hero Toby is a nuanced, poignant character.

 

Older

Atwood, Kathryn J.  Women Heroes of World War II: The Pacific Theater: 15 Stories of Resistance, Rescue, Sabotage, and Survival
235 pp.     Chicago     2016     Trade ISBN 978-1-61373-168-0
Ebook ISBN 978-1-61373-171-0

Cordell, M. R.  Courageous Women of the Civil War: Soldiers, Spies, Medics, and More
230 pp.     Chicago     2016    Trade ISBN 978-1-61373-200-7
Ebook ISBN 978-1-61373-203-8

Women of Action series. These are interesting collective biographies of women on the WWII Pacific front and from both sides of the American Civil War, who challenged gender stereotypes of their time. Clear narrative texts provide ample historical context along with supplemental sections and high-quality black-and-white photographs. The informative accounts include plenty of primary sources and suggested further reading for each chapter. Bib., ind.

Berkhout, Nina  The Mosaic
269 pp.     Groundwood     2017     Trade ISBN 978-1-55498-985-0
Ebook ISBN 978-1-55498-986-7

In small-town Montana, recently returned young veteran Gabriel is the subject of (pacifist) Twyla’s senior-year community service assignment. She begins assisting him with a secret project: using ammunition to build a massive mosaic symbolizing the destruction and loss of war. When Twyla enters the mosaic in a contest, it becomes a lightning rod for war-related hatred. Berkhout’s YA debut is a timely, heartfelt coming-of-age story.

Collier, Peter  Choosing Courage: Inspiring Stories of What It Means to Be a Hero
226 pp.     Artisan     2015     Trade ISBN 978-1-57965-596-9

Ranging from World War II through the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, this book offers compelling stories of selected Medal of Honor recipients who performed heroic acts in battle; vignettes of civilians awarded the Medal are also included. Photographs, including personal snapshots and ceremony photos with U.S. presidents, enhance the succinctly told accounts. Sections with relevant historical context are inserted throughout the volume. Glos., ind.

Cornell, Kari  Mathew Brady Records the Civil War
112 pp.     ABDO/Essential Library     2017     Library binding ISBN 978-1-5321-1016-0
Ebook ISBN 978-1-6807-8801-3

Defining Images series. Cornell explores Mathew Brady’s Civil War photographs and their role in the development of photojournalism. In addition to the war itself, this series installment focuses on Brady’s life and career — with sections on technical and practical aspects of photography at the time — resulting in a compelling interplay of history, photography, and biography. Additional information on key photographs appended. Reading list, websites. Bib., glos., ind.

Duffy, Chris  Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics
144 pp.     Roaring Brook/First Second     2014     Trade ISBN 978-1-62672-065-7

The work of “Trench Poets” from WWI is brought vividly to life by accomplished cartoonists. This stunningly effective presentation does much to inform readers of the emotional and physical horrors of war. The volume’s small format renders some of the detail difficult to decipher, but anything larger might be overwhelming. There’s very mature content, especially in lyrics of soldiers’ songs. Reading list.

Hughes, Dean  Four-Four-Two
268 pp.     Atheneum     2016     Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-6252-5
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-6254-9

In 1942, Yuki and his siblings, all American citizens, are deported with their mother to the Topaz internment camp. Yet Yuki joins the army because he believes it’s the only way he’ll “ever be respected in this country.” Events, characters, and dialogue create an indelible sense of time and place. Yuki emerges as a true hero during a dark period of American history.

Johnson, Brian David and Egleson, Jan  MWD: Hell Is Coming Home
160 pp.     Candlewick     2017     Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-5706-2

Illustrated by Laila Milevski and Karl Stevens. A military dog handler is sent home to New Hampshire after being injured in an insurgent attack in which dog Ender saved her life. This graphic novel offers a poignant — and very adult — look at contemporary veterans’ issues as Liz tries to cope with physical and emotional scars while readjusting to civilian society. The grayscale art seems to shift stylistically with Liz’s mood.

Katz, Gwen C.  Among the Red Stars
376 pp.     HarperTeen     2017     Trade ISBN 978-0-06-264274-5
Ebook ISBN 978-0-06-264276-9

This highly readable novel illuminates the story of the Soviet Union’s famed WWII squadrons of airwomen, the “Night Witches.” For bomber pilot Valka, Nazi fire, terrible weather, darkness, the loss of comrades, and worry for her sweetheart in the infantry all exercise her aeronautical and emotional resources. Katz is skillfully informative, interweaving historical figures and facts without losing emotional propulsion and suspense.

Myers, Walter Dean  Invasion  
218 pp.     Scholastic     2013     Trade ISBN 978-0-545-38428-5

When Josiah “Woody” Wedgwood enlists in the army, he harbors only vague ideas about the nature of war. But when he lands on the beach during the invasion of Normandy, the reality of battle hits him. Myers delivers both brutal battle scenes and wartime musings vividly through Woody’s matter-of-fact observations as his ragged battalion fights its way through France.

Partridge, Elizabeth  Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam
214 pp.     Viking     2018    Trade ISBN 978-0-670-78506-3
Ebook ISBN 978-0-425-29178-8

Partridge’s indispensable volume about the Vietnam War employs a powerfully moving structure that sends readers back and forth between America and Vietnam over a twenty-year period. Each chapter centers on an individual affected: Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon; Martin Luther King Jr.; Maya Lin; etc., alternating with eight people (seven veterans, one Vietnamese refugee) Partridge interviewed. Ample direct quotes and carefully researched details, along with spectacular photographs, bring the war close. Bib., ind.

Shepard, Ray Anthony  Now or Never!: 54th Massachusetts Infantry’s War to End Slavery
144 pp.     Boyds/Calkins     2017     Trade ISBN 978-1-62979-340-5
Ebook ISBN 978-1-62979-916-2

This dual biography follows Civil War soldiers George E. Stephens and James Henry Gooding, who enlisted in the Union’s first all-black regiment. The men were also war correspondents, carefully documenting racial bias, unfair laws, and unequal pay for African American soldiers. Shepard’s narrative, accompanied by archival photographs, provides insight into the enduring struggles for racial equality following the Emancipation Proclamation. Reading list, timeline. Bib., ind.

 

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