World War 2 books for children and teens
Children’s, young adult and teen books about WW2. This list contains 80 titles, exploring a diverse range of 1939-1945 topic areas including D-Day, the Holocaust, the Manhattan Project, evacuation, the Blitz, spies and codebreaking at Bletchley Park, the role of women in the war, the Battle of Britain, and the aftermath of the war. There’s a range of fiction, nonfiction, true stories, picture books, graphic novels, poetry and diaries suitable for school libraries, independent reading and teaching in KS2, KS3 and KS4. This list features books by Michael Rosen, Nina Bawden, Bali Rai, Tom Palmer, Emma Carroll, Sufiya Ahmed, Liz Kessler, Mal Peet, Michael Morpurgo, Anne Frank and Ruta Sepetys.
World War 2 books for children and teens – our recommendations
World War 2 fiction books for 7-11 year olds
Resist by Tom Palmer
Set in the village of Velp the Netherlands during the WW2 Nazi occupation, ‘Resist’ follows teenage Edda as she feels compelled to help the resistance in the face of oppressive control, arrests and starvation. Based on the experiences of Audrey Hepburn, this is a thought-provoking read, and an ideal text to discuss with Year 6 classes studying WW2, the Holocaust and Anne Frank. Full of warmth, empathy, emotion and determination, Resist is a fast-moving and gripping page-turner that will inspire KS2 readers to read more historical fiction.
The Hunt For David Berman by Claire Mulligan
Set in WW2, Robert is evacuated to a remote Scottish farm to live with his grandparents. But unbeknown to him, hidden in his suitcase is a secret codebook, and it’s so important Nazi agents will kill for it. The plot moves with purpose and conviction and the 29 thrilling short chapters make this book ideal for reading aloud to a KS2 class each day over half a term.
The Book Cat by Polly Faber
This charming illustrated novel features Morgan, a cat who finds himself a home at Faber & Faber, the renowned London publishers. As WW2 develops and London is bombed in the Blitz, Morgan takes charge and makes plans to lead all the other cats to safety. With an accessible font, short chapters and engaging illustrations, this will be a useful text for teachers of reluctant readers in upper KS2 who are studying WW2 as a topic.
The Umbrella Mouse by Anna Fargher
Set in World War 2, Pip Hanway – a mouse – flees from the bombing to search for a new home. No longer able to live in the umbrella shop, the rodent joins a secretive resistance called Noah’s Ark. This is an original take on the WW2 genre, and the ambitious scope and pace will result make this a captivating read for children aged 9-11 in years 4-6.
World War 2 fiction for young adults and teens aged 11-16
The Secrets Act by Alison Weatherby
This mesmerizing novel follows Pearl and Ellen, two teenagers who are working at the super-secret Bletchley Park during WW2. Ellen cracks codes and Pearl delivers messages, but both find themselves drawn together and thrust headlong into a world of intrigue, treachery and spies – a dangerous puzzle that they might not be able to solve in time. A fascinating and original historical novel for young adults, The Secrets Act is highly recommended for year 9 pupils.
World War 2 diaries and memoirs
I Saw A Beautiful Woodpecker: The Diary of a Young Boy at the Outbreak World War II by Michał Skibiński and Ala Bankroft
When a teacher sets 8 year old Michał Skibiński a holiday homework task to improve his handwriting, the young boy keeps to his task religiously – entering one sentence in his diary each day. Beginning in July 15 1939, Michał writes about visiting a nearby stream, going to church and finding a caterpillar. But on July 27th he writes of seeing a plane circling, and by September 3rd he is hiding from planes and bombs.
World War 2 picture books
World War 2 graphic novels
Peter in Peril by Helen Bate
Peter’s life is flipped upside down as his family is forced to flee persecution in WW2 Hungary. This approachable, highly visual graphic novel is suitable for less confident KS2 readers. It’s also a great companion piece to Judith Kerr’s When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.
World War 2 nonfiction and true stories
Everything World War II by National Geographic Kids
Highly recommended for years 5&6, this comprehensive non-fiction text covers Britain during WW2 with a thematic approach: Under Attack, At Home, The Turn of the Tide and Winning the War. There’s also a useful find out more section and interactive glossary with answers. The “At Home” section, covering evacuation, rationing, dig for victory, land girls, factories, the Blitz and the ‘Yanks’ will be particularly useful for topic teaching where pupils are reading a WW2 based novel, such as Carrie’s War, Goodnight Mister Tom or Machine Gunners.
The Missing: The True Story of My Family in World War II by Michael Rosen
This moving collection of poems and recollections tells the story of what happened to the relatives of Michael Rosen that went missing during WW2. Powerful and accessible, these accounts will allow pupils to understand and relate to the effects of the Holocaust, and the poems provide opportunities for discussion and deeper thought. This is an important resource for teachers of KS2 and KS3 history. Highly recommended.
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World War 2 resources for teachers
- The UK National Archives offers an interactive site including Holocaust lesson plans, Kindertransport resources, and the plot to assassinate Hitler.
- Author Tom Palmer’s website features free downloadable chapters, posters, teaching activities and videos based on his books D-Day Dog, Spitfire, After the War, Arctic Star and Resist.
- STEM learning has put together a series of free WW2-related activities including learning how the Army and Navy used Morse code, looking at how a periscope works, and how Barnes Wallace used air resistance calculations to develop his bouncing bomb.
- The United States National Archives has created a superb collection of primary sources and teaching activities for secondary-aged students. Topics covered include Pearl Harbor, women in WW2, political cartoons and satire, examining key speeches, discrimination, the Holocaust and the Manhattan Project.
- The Imperial War Museum’s website explores the impact of the war on society and people; covering rationing, writing letters and the Home Front.
- For secondary schools, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Holocaust Educational Trust (UK) both provide a vast repository of useful resources, materials and videos for teachers to use in the classroom.
- Historical Associations’s website features a range of articles covering wartime propaganda, children in wartime, WW2 medals, and the Blitz.