Last week, we talked about how to teach young children about World War II. As usual, our main anchors were picture books.
I chose Five in a Row (FIAR) books that are set in Europe, Japan, and the United States during World War II. I added related stories that are about a particular topic touched by each of the books, but not necessarily about the war. We read one book set in the Philippines too.
(The following book titles are mostly affiliate links. Clicking on them just means that we’ll get a little something when you eventually buy them from Amazon.com. Thank you!)
1. A New Coat for Hannah (FIAR) by Harriet Ziefert
Hannah needs a new coat for the winter. Hannah’s mother barters their beautiful things after the war to be able to have wool, yarn, fabric, and finally a new coat.
- Charlie Needs a Cloak by Tomie dePaola – about the process of making clothes right from shearing the sheep
- The Purple Coat by Amy Hest – about getting a new coat made
- A Cloak for the Dreamer by Aileen Friedman – introduction to patterns and the practical application of geometry
- The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes –Newbery-winning chapter book about a girl who is bullied because of her claims to have a hundred dresses
2. Grandfather’s Journey (FIAR) by Allen Say
Grandfather was born in Japan, migrated to the United States, and went back to his homeland with his family after being homesick. When the war started and Japan was bombed, he was unable to go back to his second home country. His grandson, author Allen Say, was born in Japan and eventually went to the U.S. Like his grandfather, he too feels torn, missing one place when he is in the other.
Related books: This book made us crazy about Japan. Here are the related books that took me and my children to the Land of the Rising Sun.
3. All Those Secrets of the World (FIAR) by Jane Yolen
Janie’s father went off to fight in the war when she was four years old and came back when she was six. While he was away, she and her mother stayed with her grandparents. Her cousin Michael taught her a “secret of the world” when they were looking at faraway ships: things and people become smaller the farther they are from you, and become bigger when they are near. Janie, in a scene that moved me to tears, used the same logic when her father returned from the war and said that she was “lots bigger than I remembered.”
- Yellow Ball by Molly Bang – a Before Five in a Row book about perspective
4. How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz
When World War II breaks out, the author’s family flees Poland and goes to Turkestan (now Kazakhstan). With food and money scarce, the boy and his mother are furious when his father buys a wall-sized map instead of the expected bread for dinner. The map fills the boy’s soul as he imagines going to exotic places around the world. A Caldecott-winner, How I Learned Geography is based on the author’s experiences as a child and contains more factual information on the books’ cover.
5. The Lily Cupboard by Shulamith Oppenheim
Miriam, a young Jewish girl, is sent by her parents to the countryside to hide with a non-Jewish family during the war. One of the first things that they show her when she arrives is a cupboard with pictures of lilies on it. It is her designated hiding place and they instruct her to hide there right away should soldiers come. This is a gentle book that introduces one aspect of the Holocaust without being scary.
6. A Picture Book of Anne Frank by David Adler
I love the story of Anne Frank. But since my daughter is still too young for The Diary of Anne Frank, this straightforward and well-illustrated book serves as a good introduction to the brave Jewish girl’s life. I’m actually collecting this biography series, as they are a great reference!
Related books about tolerance and celebrating differences:
- Whoever You Are by Mem Fox
- The Skin You’re In by Pat Thomas
- What If the Zebras Lost Their Stripes? by John Reitano
7. Good Night Lala by Maya Calica
Corazon Ordonez-Calica, Lala to her grandchildren, used to tell her childhood stories in Pampanga during the war. Her daughter Maya edited her stories in a book for Filipino children to enjoy. Published by Adarna House, this chapter book gives a glimpse to a time gone by as well as to actual wartime experiences.
Whew! Looking at all the titles on this list makes me realize why we reached almost two months learning about the war. Watch out for the last installment of this series about war-related places you can visit to make history more real for your kids.