Historical Fiction: The World Wars, the Great Depression, & Vietnam

World War I

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. 1954
A love story between an ambulance driver and an English nurse set against the brutality of World War I. (Adult)

Crossing Stones by Helen Frost. 2009
In their own voices, four young people, Muriel, Frank, Emma, and Ollie, tell of their experiences during the first World War, as the boys enlist and are sent overseas, Emma finishes school, and Muriel fights for peace and women's suffrage.

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson. 2006
After inheriting her uncle's homesteading claim in Montana, sixteen-year-old orphan Hattie Brooks travels from Iowa in 1917 to make a home for herself and encounters some unexpected problems related to the war being fought in Europe.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. 2009
In an alternate 1914 Europe, fifteen-year-old Austrian Prince Alek, on the run from the Clanker Powers who are attempting to take over the globe using mechanical machinery, forms an uneasy alliance with Deryn who, disguised as a boy to join the British Air Service, is learning to fly genetically-engineered beasts. First in a trilogy. (Historical Fantasy)

Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo. 2004
When Thomas Peaceful's older brother is forced to join the British Army, Thomas decides to sign up as well, although he is only fourteen years old, to prove himself to his country, his family, his childhood love, Molly, and himself.

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. 1982
Joey the horse recalls his experiences growing up on an English farm, his struggle for survival as a cavalry horse during World War I, and his reunion with his beloved master. (Children’s Fiction)

Great Depression

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko. 2004
A twelve-year-old boy named Moose moves to Alcatraz Island in 1935 when guards' families were housed there, and has to contend with his extraordinary new environment in addition to life with his autistic sister. (Children’s Fiction)

Dust by Arthur Slade. 2003
Eleven-year-old Robert is the only one who can help when a mysterious stranger arrives, performing tricks and promising to bring rain, at the same time children begin to disappear from a dust bowl farm town in Saskatchewan in the 1930s. (Historical Fantasy)

Esperanza Rising
by Pam Muñoz Ryan. 2000
Esperanza and her mother are forced to leave their life of wealth and privilege in Mexico to go work in the labor camps of Southern California, where they must adapt to the harsh circumstances facing Mexican farm workers on the eve of the Great Depression. (Children’s Fiction)

Extra Innings by Robert Newton Peck. 2001
After a tragic airplane crash that claims the lives of most of his family, sixteen-year-old Tate goes to live with his wealthy great-grandfather and his adopted black great-aunt Vidalia and he finds unexpected solace in the stories of her childhood spent traveling with a Depression-era Negro baseball team.

A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck. 1998
A boy recounts his annual summer trips to rural Illinois with his sister during the Great Depression to visit their larger-than-life grandmother.

The Miner’s Daughter by Gretchen Moran Laskas. 2007
Sixteen-year-old Willa, living in a Depression-era West Virginia mining town, works hard to help her family, experiences love and friendship, and finds an outlet for her writing when her family becomes part of the Arthurdale, West Virginia, community supported by Eleanor Roosevelt.

Out of the Dust
by Karen Hesse. 1997
In a series of poems, fifteen-year-old Billie Jo relates the hardships of living on her family's wheat farm in Oklahoma during the dust bowl years. (Children’s Fiction)

The Truth about Sparrows by Marian Hale. 2004
Twelve-year-old Sadie promises that she will always be Wilma's best friend when their families leave drought-stricken Missouri in 1933, but once in Texas, Sadie learns that she must try to make a new home--and new friends, too.

World War II

Annexed by Sharon Dogar. 2010
Retells the story of Anne Frank from the perspective of Peter, who overcomes an initial loathing for the precocious young diarist before falling in love with her and questioning his faith in light of frightening persecutions.

The Art of Keeping Cool by Janet Taylor Lisle. 2000
In 1942, Robert and his cousin Elliot uncover long-hidden family secrets while staying in their grandparents' Rhode Island town, where they also become involved with a German artist who is suspected of being a spy.

Bat 6 by Virginia Euwer Wolff. 1998
In small town, post-World War Oregon, twenty-one 6th grade girls recount the story of an annual softball game, during which one girl's bigotry comes to the surface.

The Berlin Boxing Club by Rob Sharenow. 2011
In 1936 Berlin, fourteen-year-old Karl Stern, considered Jewish despite a non-religious upbringing, learns to box from the legendary Max Schmeling while struggling with the realities of the Holocaust.

The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak. 2006
Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel--a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. 2006
Bored and lonely after his family moves from Berlin to a place called "Out-With" in 1942, Bruno, the son of a Nazi officer, befriends a boy in striped pajamas who lives behind a wire fence.

The Boy Who Dared
by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. 2008
In October, 1942, seventeen-year-old Helmuth Hubener, imprisoned for distributing anti-Nazi leaflets, recalls his past life and how he came to dedicate himself to bring the truth about Hitler and the war to the German people.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. 2012
In 1943, a British fighter plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France and the survivor tells a tale of friendship, war, espionage, and great courage as she relates what she must to survive while keeping secret all that she can. Also look for the sequel, Rose Under Fire.

Code Talker: A Novel about the Navajo Marines of World War II by Joseph Bruchac. 2005
After being taught in a boarding school run by whites that Navajo is a useless language, Ned Begay and other Navajo men are recruited by the Marines to become Code Talkers, sending messages during World War II in their native tongue.

Daniel, Half-human and the Good Nazi by David Chotjewitz. 2004
In 1933, best friends Daniel and Armin admire Hitler, but as anti-Semitism buoys Hitler to power, Daniel learns he is half Jewish, threatening the friendship even as life in their beloved Hamburg, Germany, is becoming nightmarish. Also details Daniel and Armin's reunion in 1945 in interspersed chapters.

Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salisbury. 2005
Eddy Okana lies about his age and joins the Army in his hometown of Honolulu only weeks before the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. Then the Army sends Eddy and a small band of Japanese-American soldiers on a secret mission--a special job that only they can do.

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith. 2008
During World War II, a light-skinned African American girl "passes" for white in order to join the Women Airforce Service Pilots.

The Gadget by Paul Zindel. 2001
In 1945, having joined his father at Los Alamos, where he and other scientists are working on a secret project to end World War II, thirteen-year-old Stephen becomes caught in a web of secrecy and intrigue.

The Green Glass Sea
by Ellen Klages. 2006
It is 1943, and 11-year-old Dewey Kerrigan is traveling west on a train to live with her scientist father--but no one will tell her exactly where he is. When she reaches Los Alamos, New Mexico, she learns why: he's working on a top secret government program.

Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli. 2003
A Jewish boy living in the streets of Warsaw wishes to be a Nazi someday, with tall shiny jackboots and a gleaming Eagle hat of his own. Until the day when the trains come to empty the Jews from the ghetto of the damned, he’s a boy who realizes it’s safest of all to be nobody.

Postcards from No Man’s Land by Aidan Chambers. 2002
This novel for older teens alternates between two stories--contemporarily, seventeen-year-old Jacob visits a daunting Amsterdam at the request of his English grandmother--and historically, nineteen-year-old Geertrui relates her experience of British soldier’s attempts to liberate Holland from its German occupation.

Soldier Boys by Dean Hughes. 2001
Two boys, one German and one American, are eager to join their respective armies during World War II, and their paths cross at the Battle of the Bulge.

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene. 1973
Sheltering an escaped prisoner of war is the beginning of some shattering experiences for a twelve-year-old girl in Arkansas.

Tamar by Mal Peet. 2007
In England in 1995, fifteen-year-old Tamar, grief-stricken by the puzzling death of her beloved grandfather, slowly begins to uncover the secrets of his life in the Dutch resistance during the last year of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, and the climactic events that forever cast a shadow on his life and that of his family.

Warriors in the Crossfire by Nancy Bo Flood. 2010
Twelve-year-old Joseph helps his family to survive when the natives of Saipan are caught in the crossfire between the Japanese soldiers and the American troops at the end of World War II.

Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata. 2006
After twelve-year-old Sumiko and her Japanese-American family are relocated from their flower farm in southern California to an internment camp on a Mojave Indian reservation in Arizona, she helps her family and neighbors, becomes friends with a local Indian boy, and tries to hold on to her dream of owning a flower shop.

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell. 2008
In 1947, with her jovial stepfather Joe back from the war and family life returning to normal, teenage Evie, smitten by the handsome young ex-GI who seems to have a secret hold on Joe, finds herself caught in a complicated web of lies whose devastating outcome changes her life and that of her family forever.

When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park. 2002
Sun-hee and her older brother Tae-yul are proud of their Korean heritage. Yet they live their lives under Japanese occupation. All students must read and write in Japanese and no one can fly the Korean flag. Korea is torn apart by their Japanese invaders during World War II.

Your Eyes in Stars by M.E. Kerr. 2006
In their small New York town, two teenaged girls become friends while helping each other make sense of their families, neighbors, and selves as they approach adulthood in the years preceding World War II.

Vietnam War

All the Broken Pieces: A Novel in Verse
by Ann E. Burg. 2009
Two years after being airlifted out of Vietnam in 1975, Matt Pin is haunted by the terrible secret he left behind and, now, in a loving adoptive home in the United States, a series of profound events forces him to confront his past.

Countdown by Deborah Wiles. 2010
Eleven-year-old Franny deals with the challenges of growing up against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Interspersed with the text are photographs, news items, and advertisements from the early sixties. First in a trilogy.

Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata. 2007
A young soldier in Vietnam bonds with his bomb-sniffing dog.

Eli the Good by Silas House. 2009
In the summer of 1976, ten-year-old Eli Book's excitement over Bicentennial celebrations is tempered by his father's flashbacks to the Vietnam War and other family problems, as well as concern about his tough but troubled best friend, Edie.

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers. 1988
Seventeen-year-old Richie Perry, just out of his Harlem high school, enlists in the Army in the summer of 1967 and spends a devastating year on active duty in Vietnam.

The Life History of a Star by Kelly Easton. 2001
For more than a year, fourteen-year-old Kristin uses her diary to record her confused thoughts about the physical changes brought on by adolescence and the emotional strain on her family of living with the "ghost" of her beloved older brother who was physically and mentally destroyed while serving in Vietnam.

A Million Shades of Gray by Cynthia Kadohata. 2010
In 1975 after American troops pull out of Vietnam, a thirteen-year-old boy and his beloved elephant escape into the jungle when the Viet Cong attack his village. (Children’s Fiction)

Rat Life by Tedd Arnold. 2007
After developing an unusual friendship with a young Vietnam War veteran in 1972, fourteen-year-old Todd discovers his writing talent and solves a murder mystery.

Shooting the Moon by Frances O'Roark Dowell. 2008
When her brother is sent to fight in Vietnam, twelve-year-old Jamie begins to reconsider the army world that she has grown up in. (Children’s Fiction)

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. 1990
Twenty-two stories of men who fought in Vietnam told by looking at the personal items they carried with them. (Adult)