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Are you interested in learning more about war and conflict, and how it has shaped our lives? We have fiction and non-fiction titles that explore World War 1, World War 2 and other battles from UK and world history. You can find reviews for all the books plus many have an extract to download to help you choose your next book.
First published in Ukraine in 2017, Maya and Her Friends tells the story of nine-year-old Maya and her 16 classmates, all with different backgrounds and upbringings. It is the story of ordinary Ukrainian children and who have lived in the shadow of the constant threat of war following the occupation of Crimea in 2014. Maya and Her Friends was written to highlight the fact that children should be allowed to live in safety and love, no matter how many parents they have, whether they may be orphans, have been separated from their parents by war or migration, or have had to flee their homes.
Another in the excellent Super Readable Rollercoaster series produced in collaboration with Barrington Stoke, this is the story of Judy, returning to a completely unfamiliar London after five years of evacuation in rural Somerset. Taking a refreshingly different angle on an evacuee’s story, this deals frankly and authentically with the emotional difficulties that Judy faces. The years between nine and fourteen see a huge amount of physical and psychological development and there is an inevitable gulf in the relationship between her and her mother. Her mother is dealing with her own trauma after being bombed out of their family home and understandably jealous of the “aunties” who have shared her daughter’s childhood. Judy is torn between her love of the rural life and her desire to find a true home again. As she searches through the rubble of her old home, while her mother works, she meets a boy facing his own post evacuation difficulties. Together they are entranced by the way that nature is reclaiming the bombsites and Judy finds clues that help her understand what her mother has been through and what “home” really means. Although aimed at reluctant and dyslexic readers this a book with a depth and complexity that would reward any reader. The glossary and discussion questions that are a regular feature of this series are also an invaluable class or reading group support.
January 2022 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month January 2022 | With a strong Welsh setting and a deep sense of community When the War Came Home sensitively explores the impact of World War One on some of the survivors – both soldiers and civilians. Furious that she has to move home when her mother loses her job, Natty is sure that she is going to hate living with her cousins in a different Welsh valley. Everything, especially school, is very different. But Natty’s view of her new home is changed because she meets two young men who have come back from fighting in the First World War. The war may be over but her cousin Huw still suffers great grief from losing his best friend as well as terrible flashbacks when there are loud bangs while Johnny, a young boy from the local hospital for ex-soldiers, doesn’t even know who he is. Natty is determined to help both the boys and to solve a mystery. It is an excellent story which gives a thoughtful insight into the long term effects of war.
On a school trip to Rochester Cathedral, Leo is astonished to see a World War II memorial to a man with exactly the same name as him, Leo Kai Lim. Who was the Leo commemorated with a golden lion in the cathedral, and could there be a family connection? Determined to find out more, Leo suggests forgotten heroes as the theme for the class project on WWII, and it’s chosen alongside family histories. The project takes on even more significance when the class learn it will be put forward for a national Remembrance Day competition. In his endeavour to find out more about his namesake, Leo is helped by his best friend Sangeeta, who is tracking down information on the part played by Indian soldiers in the war, and thrilled to discover more about the role played by women too. He’s also helped, to his surprise, by Olivia Morris, universally regarded as the coolest kid in school. Leo’s efforts get him into trouble with his parents (a midnight phone call to his Aunty Su in Singapore) and his school (a disastrous, but very funny secret trip to the RAF Museum), but Leo’s determination is overwhelming. When a nasty racist bit of sabotage threatens the project, Leo suddenly finds everyone is on his side, and there are more surprises to come. Onjali Raúf writes superb adventure stories for children, full of excitement and incident, and has a great ear for the way they speak. This story will intrigue and entertain young readers while also helping them understand racism, past and present. It’s not just a really good read, it’s a really important read.
A life-enhancing book and even more amazing because this is the late author's own story, telling of her and her family's flight from Nazi Germany from their home and everything they knew to become refugees, first in Switzerland and then in Paris. - Michael Morpurgo This unforgettable story of a Jewish family fleeing Germany before the Second World War is now available in a special hardback celebratory 50th anniversary edition.
September 2012 Book of the Month | Billie Swift is quite a character and this World War Two story soars! Billie’s happier with her mum’s chickens than she is with other people and though she can’t see the point of school with its tests, is a quick learner especially when the subject is aeroplanes. An unplanned visit to the local airfield – a long story involving a crashed Spitfire – and a surprise meeting with Eleanor Roosevelt no less, leads Billie to start training with the Air Transport Auxiliary, joining other dynamic, determined young women flying planes across the UK. Not only is there all the thrill of flying but an intriguing plotline about a possible spy too. Lawrence has already proved that she’s a dab hand at bringing history to life with her debut The Unstoppable Letty Pegg, and here creates another likeable, original heroine in an atmospheric, action-packed adventure.
Translated by Rachel Ward | With an illuminating contextualising foreword by Michael Rosen, Dirk Reinhardt’s The Edelweiss Pirates is a tremendously-told story of astonishing courage as a group of young people living under the brutal Nazi regime launch risky rebellions. The graceful, pacey story begins when sixteen-year-old Daniel encounters an old man, Josef, at a cemetery. Josef is there visiting the grave of his brother, who was murdered during the war. “It’s a long story,” he explains. “But it might interest you. You especially!” Intrigued, Daniel discovers where Josef lives and visits him, whereupon he shares his diary, which reveals how Josef and a band of fellow brave teenagers rebelled against Nazi atrocities. As a teenager, Josef left the Hitler Youth for The Edelweiss Pirates - a group of compellingly cool youngsters. In his words, “they’ve got style: checked shirts and bright neck scarves, leather jackets and belts with huge buckles. Some have straps on their wrists and kind of fancy hats on their heads”. Driven by a motto of freedom, the Pirates initially hang out together to enjoy themselves and let loose but, as Nazi atrocities escalate, they plot and implement perilous missions to undermine the regime. Reeling with details of real-life struggles and feats, and a riveting sense of drama, this is an extraordinary novel about an extraordinary group of youngsters whose lesser-known story reveals the capacity of the human spirit to stand up and risk all to confront barbarism and injustices. It’s a poignant page-turner to the nth degree.
Adapted for a younger readership from the author’s celebrated adult book of the same name, this illustrated history of the Silk Roads, bound in a majestic gold and blue package, is the perfect present for fledging historians. The book’s journey leads armchair adventurers along thrilling, far-reaching roads, taking in the history of ancient Persia, Constantinople, Rome, Attila the Hun, the emergence of Islam, Viking slavery, Genghis Khan, Columbus - and more - from a holistic perspective. “You might even think of the Silk Roads as the world’s central nervous system, linking all the organs of the body together”, the author suggests in the introduction, and his engaging exploration of the interplay between politics, science, religion and trade certainly gives this book far greater tang than your standard textbook. Indeed, generously spiced with exquisite illustrations and maps that inform as they enthrall, young history buffs will undoubtedly devour this pitch-perfect treasure, and grown-ups will get much from it too.
Shortlisted for the Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal 2022 | Longlisted for the Klaus Flugge Prize 2022 | | Written and illustrated by award-winning artist and current affairs specialist George Butler, Drawn Across Borders is a unique empathy-inspiring portrayal of the affecting personal experiences of twelve migrants, covering countries as diverse as Tajikistan, Myanmar, Kenya, Syria and Palestine. It’s an honest, awe-inspiring tribute to the featured individuals, a testament to the strength of the human spirit, and a timely reminder that real people lie behind every news story on migrants. Real people with real (and varied) reasons for leaving places they once called home. Butler frames the book with brilliant clarity: “People move around the world for many reasons. Some migration is voluntary; most is not.” The written portraits are deeply personal, framed by the author’s experiences on the frontlines of - for example - refugee camps, and based on his conversations with migrants. When combined with the accompanying painterly illustrations, they create a book that draws the heart and eye to a clutch of stories that should be known. Recommended for readers aged 11 upwards who have an interest in current affairs and history (adults included), this would also make a valuable springboard for discussing migration and global politics in a classroom context. The LoveReading LitFest invited George to talk about the process of creating his book and the importance of shining a light on to the perils immigrants and refugees face. The digitally native, all year round, online literature and books festival, with new content released every week is a free-for-all-users festival. What are you waiting for? Find the events here and sign up to become a member.
Winner of the CLiPPA (CLPE Children’s Poetry Award) 2021 | On the Move is both personal and universal, with messages of home, identity and family. The CLiPPA judges found it full of emotion, delivered with a perfect sense of understatement; they praised the way words and illustrations provide pauses, allowing readers space to think. Chair of the CLiPPA judges, Allie Esiri: "the judges were unanimous in choosing On the Move as the winner for the way in which it situates us, with striking immediacy, within Michael Rosen’s own personal recollections of migration, and invites us to consider the plight of others forced to be on the move today. In a period in which migration is continuously reshaping our ideas of belonging, heritage and identity, this book serves as a timely — and timeless — reminder of our kinship with our fellow humans of all backgrounds for readers of all ages."
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 11-14 | Tom Palmer’s riveting After the War was sparked by the true story of Jewish Polish, Czech and German children who were sent to safety in the Lake District after surviving the horrors of Nazism. Addressing big questions - how does hope, humanity and friendship survive unimaginable horrors? How do we begin again? – in a highly-readable style (as is typical of Palmer and publisher Barrington Stoke), this is a thought-provoking, edifying read. Trevor Avery of the Lake District Holocaust Project sets the context in the book’s foreword: “A group of young people arrived in the Lake District in the summer of 1945 and stayed for a few months, the last of them leaving in early 1946. Although they only spent a short time in the area, it was a profoundly important experience for them, and they made a big impression on those who met them at the time.” A sense of this being a “profoundly important experience” is clear from the outset, as revealed when young Yossi first glimpses England, his imagined paradise: “This was the place where they had been told they would be safe. A place where there would be no German soldiers and no concentration camps.” But despite the peace, despite “the lush green hills under a bright blue sky” and the “huge clusters of trees, swallows flitting above them”, Yossi feels unsettled. The brick buildings remind him of concentration camps, and he’s haunted by terrible memories, disturbed by nightmares, and longs for news from his family - will his father ever be found and come for him? Details of everyday life are strikingly evoked, and springboard deeper insights into the children’s experiences – a bike ride reminds Yossi of when he had to surrender his bike to the Nazis, immediately after he and his dad witnessed a horrific attack. An opportunity to attend a Rosh Hashanah celebration triggers his recollection of the terrifying time the SS destroyed his synagogue. A storm over Lake Windermere reminds him of bomb explosions. This device works perfectly, and Yossi’s enduring trauma is palpable. Then, at his lowest, a memory of his father’s words pulls him from the depths of despair: “if we let ourselves go, the Germans will think that they were right: that we are not human.” An exceptional telling of exceptional true events.
‘Every story is the sound of a storyteller begging to stay alive’, says Khosrou – or Daniel as he’s known to his new classmates in Oklahoma - the narrator of the many wonderful stories that make up this book. Central of course is his own story, how with his mother and sister he had to flee his home in Iran, leaving his father behind, but there are also the stories of his grandparents and great-grandparents, plus the myths that he’s grown up with. Horribly picked on at school and tormented at home by his new step-father, he shares his stories Scheherazade-like with his class and with us, the lucky readers, and because of that we know that one day he will be whole again. Poignant, touching, funny and heart-breaking, this is a book in a million, a story that will connect with every person who reads it and become part of their own.
General Jack and the Battle of the Five Kingdoms is an interesting anthropomorphic adventure which reminded me a lot of The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lion King. This adventure story is told in reflection by Miaow, the chief of cats, who befriends a ten-year-old explorer, Jack, who manages to unite the kingdoms in order to overthrow the despot Lions and larger ruling cats. This fantasy adventure is complemented throughout with black and white illustrations. The narrative focuses on a number of teachable lessons for younger readers such as the positives of teamwork as well as having a more traditional good vs evil tale to enjoy. I liked the anthropomorphised animals although I would have liked to have some of their animal qualities maintained in the wording. For example, the description of the lions “ruling with a firm hand”, I would have preferred the phrasing to be ‘with a firm paw’. I also thought I spotted and enjoyed the play on the word kingdom, the subtle nod to not only the traditional geographical definition but also the taxonomic ranks which classify every animal. Like The Chronicles of Narnia, I could see that the plot of General Jack shares connections to stories in the Bible, although I think that this book could be an entertaining read for any young fantasy fan. As Miaow tells this story, which is his own redemption and self-discovery as much as the larger animal revolution, it is easy to become attached to the chief of the cats and his family, and I read hoping that my favourite characters survived unscathed. I think that this would be a very good story for middle grade readers and above, and teaches them that you’re never too small to make a difference.
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