• How we teach history without a curriculum in our homeschool and our favorite homeschool history books and resources
    history,  resources,  unschooling

    TEACHING HISTORY WITHOUT A CURRICULUM: and some of our favorite history homeschool resources

    Today I’m continuing the homeschool without a curriculum series and we’re chatting history!

    I thought history was incredibly boring as a student but now I love history.

    I have some fun history resources to share that we really enjoy.

    You can see the entire homeschooling without a curriculum series here.

     

    How we teach history without a curriculum in our homeschool and our favorite homeschool history books and resources

     

     

    HISTORY RESOURCES WE LOVE

     

    How we teach history without a curriculum in our homeschool and our favorite homeschool history books and resources

     

    How we teach history without a curriculum in our homeschool and our favorite homeschool history books and resources

     

    How we teach history without a curriculum in our homeschool and our favorite homeschool history books and resources

     

    How we teach history without a curriculum in our homeschool and our favorite homeschool history books and resources

     

    HISTORY VIDEOS & CHANNELS WE LIKE

     

     

     

     

     

    Homeschool Pop History videos:

     

     

    A Kid Explains History

    Simple History

  • Great Picture Book Biographies - a great way for kids to learn history
    book lists,  elementary,  history,  picture books

    19 Picture Book Biography Stories

    It’s never too early to introduce kids to biographies.

    I love the increase of the number of biographical picture books in the last number of years.

    It’s not even just the number, it’s the quality as well.

    Even I have learned a lot about history thanks to some well written picture books.

    In this list I’ve included mostly books we have read but there are also a few I’ve heard really good things about that I want to check out.

    I’m sure there will be a part two to this list because I can already guarantee I’ve forgotten some really good ones.

    If I’ve missed a great biographical picture book you love, let me know in the comments, I may just add it to the list for part two!

     

    Great Picture Book Biographies - a great way for kids to learn history

     

    19 Picture Book Biography Stories

     

    Counting on Catherine

    You’ve likely heard of the historic Apollo 13 moon landing. But do you know about the mathematical genius who made sure that Apollo 13 returned safely home?

    As a child, Katherine Johnson loved to count. She counted the steps on the road, the number of dishes and spoons she washed in the kitchen sink, everything! Boundless, curious, and excited by calculations, young Katherine longed to know as much as she could about math, about the universe.

    From Katherine’s early beginnings as a gifted student to her heroic accomplishments as a prominent mathematician at NASA, Counting on Katherine is the story of a groundbreaking American woman who not only calculated the course of moon landings but, in turn, saved lives and made enormous contributions to history.

     

    The Girl With a Mind for Math

    After touring a German submarine in the early 1940s, young Raye set her sights on becoming an engineer. Little did she know sexism and racial inequality would challenge that dream every step of the way, even keeping her greatest career accomplishment a secret for decades. Through it all, the gifted mathematician persisted―finally gaining her well-deserved title in history: a pioneer who changed the course of ship design forever.

    The Girl With a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague is the third book in a riveting educational series about the inspiring lives of amazing scientists. In addition to the illustrated rhyming tale, you’ll find a complete biography, fun facts, a colorful timeline of events, and even a note from Montague herself!

     

    The Crayon Man

    purple mountains’ majesty, mauvelous, jungle green, razzmatazz…

    What child doesn’t love to hold a crayon in their hands?  But children didn’t always have such magical boxes of crayons.  Before Edwin Binney set out to change things, children couldn’t really even draw in color.

    Here’s the true story of an inventor who so loved nature’s vibrant colors that he found a way to bring the outside world to children – in a bright green box for only a nickel! With experimentation, and a special knack for listening, Edwin Binney and his dynamic team at Crayola created one of the world’s most enduring, best-loved childhood toys – empowering children to dream in COLOR!

     

    Hidden Figures

    Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were good at math…really good.

    They participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes, like providing the calculations for America’s first journeys into space. And they did so during a time when being black and a woman limited what they could do. But they worked hard. They persisted. And they used their genius minds to change the world.

    In this beautifully illustrated picture book edition, we explore the story of four female African American mathematicians at NASA, known as “colored computers,” and how they overcame gender and racial barriers to succeed in a highly challenging STEM-based career.

     

    Mae Among the Stars

    When Little Mae was a child, she dreamed of dancing in space. She imagined herself surrounded by billions of stars, floating, gliding, and discovering.

    She wanted to be an astronaut.

    Her mom told her, “If you believe it, and work hard for it, anything is possible.”

    Little Mae’s curiosity, intelligence, and determination, matched with her parents’ encouraging words, paved the way for her incredible success at NASA as the first African American woman to travel in space.

    This book will inspire other young girls to reach for the stars, to aspire for the impossible, and to persist with childlike imagination. 

     

    The Boy Who Loved Math

    Most people think of mathematicians as solitary, working away in isolation. And, it’s true, many of them do. But Paul Erdos never followed the usual path. At the age of four, he could ask you when you were born and then calculate the number of seconds you had been alive in his head. But he didn’t learn to butter his own bread until he turned twenty. Instead, he traveled around the world, from one mathematician to the next, collaborating on an astonishing number of publications. With a simple, lyrical text and richly layered illustrations, this is a beautiful introduction to the world of math and a fascinating look at the unique character traits that made “Uncle Paul” a great man.

     

    Snowflake Bentley

    From the time he was a small boy in Vermont, Wilson Bentley saw snowflakes as small miracles. And he determined that one day his camera would capture for others the wonder of the tiny crystal. Bentley’s enthusiasm for photographing snowflakes was often misunderstood in his time, but his patience and determination revealed two important truths: no two snowflakes are alike; and each one is startlingly beautiful. His story is gracefully told and brought to life in lovely woodcuts, giving children insight into a soul who had not only a scientist’s vision and perseverance but a clear passion for the wonders of nature. Snowflake Bentley won the 1999 Caldecott Medal.

     

    Shark Lady

    Eugenie Clark fell in love with sharks from the first moment she saw them at the aquarium. She couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than studying these graceful creatures. But Eugenie quickly discovered that many people believed sharks to be ugly and scary―and they didn’t think women should be scientists.

    Determined to prove them wrong, Eugenie devoted her life to learning about sharks. After earning several college degrees and making countless discoveries, Eugenie wrote herself into the history of science, earning the nickname “Shark Lady.” Through her accomplishments, she taught the world that sharks were to be admired rather than feared and that women can do anything they set their minds to.

    An inspiring story by critically acclaimed zoologist Jess Keating about finding the strength to discover truths that others aren’t daring enough to see. Includes a timeline of Eugenie’s life and many fin-tastic shark facts!

     

    The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes

    As a girl coming of age during the Civil Rights Movement, Patricia Bath made it her mission to become a doctor. When obstacles like racism, poverty, and sexism threatened this goal, she persevered―brightening the world with a game-changing treatment for blindness!

    The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath is the second book in a brand new educational series about the inspirational lives of amazing scientists! In addition to the illustrated rhyming tale, you’ll find a complete biography, fun facts, a colorful timeline of events, and even a note from Dr. Bath herself!

     

    The Watcher

    Acclaimed picture book biographer Jeanette Winter has found her perfect subject: Jane Goodall, the great observer of chimpanzees. Follow Jane from her childhood in London watching a robin on her windowsill, to her years in the African forests of Gombe, Tanzania, invited by brilliant scientist Louis Leakey to observe chimps, to her worldwide crusade to save these primates who are now in danger of extinction, and their habitat. Young animal lovers and Winter’s many fans will welcome this fascinating and moving portrait of an extraordinary person and the animals to whom she has dedicated her life.

     

    The Girl Who Thought in Pictures

    When young Temple was diagnosed with autism, no one expected her to talk, let alone become one of the most powerful voices in modern science. Yet, the determined visual thinker did just that. Her unique mind allowed her to connect with animals in a special way, helping her invent groundbreaking improvements for farms around the globe!

     

    Mr. Ferris and His Wheel

    Capturing an engineer’s creative vision and mind for detail, this fully illustrated picture book biography sheds light on how the American inventor George Ferris defied gravity and seemingly impossible odds to invent the world’s most iconic amusement park attraction, the Ferris wheel.

    A fun, fact-filled text by Kathryn Gibbs Davis combines with Gilbert Ford’s dazzling full-color illustrations to transport readers to the 1893 World’s Fair, where George Ferris and his big, wonderful wheel lifted passengers to the skies for the first time.

     

    Dinosaur Lady

    Mary Anning loved scouring the beach near her home in England for shells and fossils. She fearlessly climbed over crumbling cliffs and rocky peaks, searching for new specimens. One day, something caught Mary’s eye.

    Bones. Dinosaur Bones.

    Mary’s discoveries rocked the world of science and helped create a brand-new field of study: paleontology. But many people believed women couldn’t be scientists, so Mary wasn’t given the credit she deserved. Nevertheless, Mary kept looking and learning more, making discoveries that reshaped scientific beliefs about the natural world.

    Dinosaur Lady is a beautiful and brilliant picture book that will enlighten children about the discovery of the dinosaurs and the importance of female scientists. It also includes a timeline of Mary Anning’s life and lots of fantastic fossil facts!

     

    Manfish

    Once upon a time in France, a baby was born under the summer sun. His parents named him Jacques. As he grew, Jacques fell in love with the sea. He dreamed of breathing beneath the waves and swimming as gracefully as a fish. In fact, he longed to become a manfish. Jacques Cousteau grew up to become a champion of the seas and one of the best-known oceanographers in the world. In this lovely biography, now in paperback, poetic text and gorgeous paintings come together to create a portrait of Cousteau that is as magical as it is inspiring.

     

    Just Like Rube Goldberg

    Want to become an award-winning cartoonist and inventor? Follow your dreams, just like Rube Goldberg! From a young age, Rube Goldberg had a talent for art. But his father, a German immigrant, wanted Rube to have a secure job. So, Rube went to college and became an engineer.

    But Rube didn’t want to spend his life mapping sewer pipes. He wanted to follow his passion, so Rube got a low-level job at a newspaper, and from there, he worked his way up, creating cartoons that made people laugh and tickled the imagination. He became known for his fantastic Rube Goldberg machines—complicated contraptions with many parts that performed a simple task in an elaborate and farfetched way. Eventually, his cartoons earned him a Pulitzer Prize and his own adjective in the dictionary. This moving biography is sure to encourage young artists and inventors to pursue their passions.

     

    Terry Fox and Me

    Before Terry Fox become a national hero and icon, he was just a regular kid. But even then, his characteristic strength, determination and loyalty were apparent and were the foundation for his friendship with Doug. The two first met at basketball tryouts in grammar school. Terry was the smallest – and worst – basketball player on the court. But that didn’t stop him. With Doug’s help, Terry practiced and practiced until he earned a spot on the team. As they grew up, the best friends supported each other, challenged each other, helped each other become better athletes and better people. Doug was by Terry’s side every step of the way: when Terry received a diagnosis of cancer in his leg, when he was learning to walk – then run – with a prosthetic leg and while he was training for the race of his life, his Marathon of Hope.

     

    Salt in His Shoes

    Michael Jordan.

    The mere mention of the name conjures up visions of basketball played at its absolute best. But as a child, Michael almost gave up on his hoop dreams, all because he feared he’d never grow tall enough to play the game that would one day make him famous. That’s when his mother and father stepped in and shared the invaluable lesson of what really goes into the making of a champion — patience, determination, and hard work.

    Deloris Jordan, mother of the basketball phenomenon, teams up with his sister Roslyn to tell this heartwarming and inspirational story that only the members of the Jordan family could tell. It’s a tale about faith and hope and how any family working together can help a child make his or her dreams come true.

     

    When I Was Eight

    Bestselling memoir Fatty Legs for younger readers. Olemaun is eight and knows a lot of things. But she does not know how to read. Ignoring her father’s warnings, she travels far from her Arctic home to the outsiders’ school to learn. The nuns at the school call her Margaret. They cut off her long hair and force her to do menial chores, but she remains undaunted. Her tenacity draws the attention of a black-cloaked nun who tries to break her spirit at every turn. But the young girl is more determined than ever to learn how to read. Based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and complemented by stunning illustrations, When I Was Eight makes the bestselling Fatty Legs accessible to younger readers. Now they, too, can meet this remarkable girl who reminds us what power we hold when we can read.

     

    When Sue Found Sue

    From a very young age, Sue Hendrickson was meant to find things: lost coins, perfume bottles, even hidden treasure. Her endless curiosity eventually led to her career in diving and paleontology, where she would continue to find things big and small. In 1990, at a dig in South Dakota, Sue made her biggest discovery to date: Sue the T. rex, the largest and most complete T. rex skeleton ever unearthed. Named in Sue’s honor, Sue the T. rex would be placed on permanent exhibition at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. When Sue Found Sue inspires readers to take a closer look at the world around them and to never lose their brave, adventurous spirits. 

     

    What are some of your favorite picture book biographies?

     

    You can see all our book lists here!

  • history,  lesson in a post

    Guy Fawkes Day Resources

    Tomorrow, November 5th, is Guy Fawkes Day (also known as Bonfire Night and Gunpowder Treason Day). It is a remembrance of when Guy Fawkes was caught with 36 barrels of gunpowder under parliament in London. He was a part of a group of men who intended to blow up the king and other members of parliament.

    I was introduced to Guy Fawkes and the day when I was an au pair in England back when I was 18 (a lifetime ago) and I spent that evening watching fireworks and bonfires.

    Today I thought I would give my kids a little history of the day and tomorrow (the actual day) we may do a little more.

    I wanted to share the resources in case you wanted to learn a little bit of history with your kids!

     

    Guy Fawkes Day Learning Resources for Elementary

     

    VIDEOS

    We watched a couples of videos, these two are the best in my opinion:

     

     

     

    POEM

    We read this poem. It gets a little dark, I read it all to my kids (9 & 6) but feel free to just read the first part with your kids.

     

    The Fifth of November

        Remember, remember!
        The fifth of November,
        The Gunpowder treason and plot;
        I know of no reason
        Why the Gunpowder treason
        Should ever be forgot!
        Guy Fawkes and his companions
        Did the scheme contrive,
        To blow the King and Parliament
        All up alive.
        Threescore barrels, laid below,
        To prove old England’s overthrow.
        But, by God’s providence, him they catch,
        With a dark lantern, lighting a match!
        A stick and a stake
        For King James’s sake!
        If you won’t give me one,
        I’ll take two,
        The better for me,
        And the worse for you.
        A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope,
        A penn’orth of cheese to choke him,
        A pint of beer to wash it down,
        And a jolly good fire to burn him.
        Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring!
        Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King!
        Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!

     

    BOOKS

    I couldn’t find much for book resources for kids but I read this teen/adult historical fiction/fantasy book a couple of months ago which was based on Guy Fawkes, I would recommend it if you enjoy fantasy and/or historical fiction!

     

    What We've Been Reading Lately in our Home and Homeschool - books for mom, middle school and elementary kids - picture books, audiobooks and chapter books

     

    OTHER RESOURCES

    We haven’t used these yet but I found a this (free) resource online (just click the image to be taken to the website):

     

     

    Do you have any resources for Guy Fawkes Day?

  • Free Pirate Unit Study Resources - great for talk like a pirate day
    history,  unit studies

    Pirate Mini Unit Study Resources

    One of the units I had on my list to study this year was pirates. And since September 19th is Talk Like a Pirate Day I thought we would learn about them leading up to that day.

    We’ve only done a few unit studies so far this year but this one was our favorite one yet.

    Pirates are a fun topic to study but it does involve a fair amount of weeding through fact and fiction.

    The kids totally got into pirate mode and dressed up in some old Halloween costumes.

     

    Free Pirate Unit Study Resources - great for talk like a pirate day

     

    There are so many great books, videos and resources for a pirate study, we could have studied the topic all year!

    But since there are other topics we want to study it can’t last forever.

    Today I want to share some of the resources we used for this study. We actually will continue to learn about it all this week yet so if I come across any more as the week goes by I’ll add them in here.

     

    Free Pirate Unit Study Resources - great for talk like a pirate day

     

    PIRATE UNIT STUDY RESOURCES

     

    I like to do my own version of strewing* when it comes to our unit studies.

    *Not sure what strewing is? It is simply just laying out a number of materials for your children to discover and letting them pick up the ones they find most interesting.

    The evening before (or in the morning before the kids are up) I get a lot of our resources out and display them on the table along with a fact related to the topic.

    Like this:

     

    Free Pirate Unit Study Resources - great for talk like a pirate day

     

    Then I see what peaks their interest first.

    This time it was the fact that I had displayed:

    Pirates actually wore eyepatches.

    I explained to each of my kids (separately because they wake up at very different times) that they did not wear an eyepatch because they were missing an eye but I would explain to them later the reasoning behind it.

    Well, that piqued their interest!

    When it came time for our unit study I explained that pirates actually wore an eyepatch to help with fighting in the dark, like at night or below deck.

    Mythbusters even tried this out and found it to be very effective:

     

     

    Of course, when you happen to have an actual eye patch from the days of correcting your son’s eye muscles, it not only becomes a great addition to a costume, it also helps in testing the theory.

     

    Free Pirate Unit Study Resources - great for talk like a pirate day

     

    My intention behind strewing with out unit studies is just to lay out a number of different materials on the topic and dive into the ones that interest them the most. I often get resources from the library and just search our house for books and items on the topic.

    Here’s a list of the different books I had out:

     

    Tough Boris – our favorite Mem Fox picture book!

    Boris von der Borch is a mean, greedy old pirate–tough as nails, through and through, like all pirates. Or is he? When a young boy sneaks onto Boris’s ship, he discovers that Boris and his mates aren’t quite what he expected.

     

    Small Saul – another ones of our favorite pirate picture books (also, I love that the French version is Petite Paul).

    When Small Saul joins the crew of The Rusty Squid, it doesn’t take long for the other pirates to notice something is very different about this tiny fellow. He was born to sing sea shanties, bake pineapple upside down cakes and redecorate, not to hold a sword and plunder. Being rough and tough just isn’t in his nature.

     

    Pirate Handbook – this was one of our favorite books, we read through most of it, learning about different ways to be a “good” pirate, some of the myths and truths and some information about actual pirates.

    This is a humorous guide to life on the high seas packed with intriguing historical detail that no self-respecting sea-dog should leave port without. Young landlubbers can become the fiercest of pirates by finding out how to keep their ship in tip-top shape, the best way to settle an argument with a shipmate and how to survive a storm at sea. It reveals the true nature of piracy to be more fascinating than the myths of peg legs, eye patches and parrots.

     

    Free Pirate Unit Study Resources - great for talk like a pirate day

     

    Pirates Past Noon – my kids love all things Magic Tree House, this book included!

    It’s a treasure trove of trouble! Jack and Annie are in for a high-seas adventure when the Magic Tree House whisks them back to the days of deserted islands, secret maps—and ruthless pirates! Will they discover a buried treasure? Or will they be forced to walk the plank?

     

    Usborne Illustrated Unabridged Treasure Island – I love the books in this series!

     

    Usborne Abridged Treasure Island – I couldn’t find this one to link it but I think it’s a good chapter book for kids to read on their own if they are interested in the book before they are ready for the full thing.

     

    Free Pirate Unit Study Resources - great for talk like a pirate day

     

    Frances Drake and the Sea Rovers of the Spanish Main – I remember learning about Sir Frances Drake in elementary school so I was excited to find this one.

     

    Usborne Timelines of World History – I found some references to Frances Drake and it was nice to see it on a bit of a visual timeline.

    A gorgeously illustrated guide to the history of the world, from wars and revolutions to ground-breaking inventions, discoveries and artistic movements. With over 3,500 key dates from the Stone Age to the year 2000, organised geographically so readers can compare what was happening in different parts of the world.

     

    You can check out more great pirate books here.

     

    Free Pirate Unit Study Resources - great for talk like a pirate day

     

    We also used two of our step-by-step drawing books to draw some piratey pictures. This book and this one are our favorites.

    While we used the drawing books a bit the kids also decided to draw some of their own pirate creations as well.

     

    Free Pirate Unit Study Resources - great for talk like a pirate day

     

    Of course, if you prefer to use a drawing video you can always turn to Art for Kids Hub, this pirate drawing video looks fun.

     

     

    Of course it was fun to learn that there actually were some women pirates as well since the only ones I had heard about previously were men, here’s some information on two real-life pirates you’ve probably never heard of.

     

    Free Pirate Unit Study Resources - great for talk like a pirate day

     

    Fellow homeschool mom and blogger Monique Willms recommended we listen to Lives of the Pirates which our library has on audio, it includes short stories on actual pirates. We’re a few stories in and enjoying it.

     

    And of course, we can’t study pirates going into Talk Like a Pirate Day and not have a handy dandy pirate talk sheet! I found this free one online. As well as this free find your pirate name sheet.

     

    Free Pirate Unit Study Resources - great for talk like a pirate day

     

    There really was so much more we could have learned about pirates but for a short less-than-a-week study I think we did pretty good!

    We’re actually going to continue studying pirates for the next couple of days so I may add a few more resources to this post if we find some good ones!

     

    Have some great pirate resources to share? Leave them in the comments below!

     

    Free Pirate Unit Study Resources - great for talk like a pirate day

  • Famous Canadians Free Notebooking Pages - great for learning Canadian history
    free printables,  geography,  history,  notebooking,  relaxed notebooking,  resources

    Free Notebooking Pages – Famous Canadians

    One of the things I love about homeschooling is following the interests of my kids.

    I am really looking forward to the day when they “know what they want to be when they grow up” (or you know, at least an idea. I’m not even sure if I know what I want to be when I grow up) and we can take those interests and run with them.

    Raeca has been wanting to create some printables/books with me and so the other evening we sat on the couch and did some brainstorming. We both came up with ten ideas and she narrowed it down to her favorite.

    The next day we worked on it and as a result we now have a booklet of Famous Canadian Notebooking Pages and we wanted to share it for free with you!

     

    Famous Canadians Free Notebooking Pages - great for learning Canadian history

     

    I’m excited to go through and learn about the twenty famous people we included in the booklet, I think it will be a great way for us to learn more about our country and some of the people who have helped shape it.

    If you want to grab the Famous Canadians Notebooking Pages you can do so here.

    Of course Raeca has the idea that we should now make a booklet for every country (or at least the US and most of the European countries), so stay tuned, there may be more to come!

    We hope you enjoy learning about Canada!

  • Middle grade books set during World War II
    book lists,  history,  middle grades

    16 Gripping World War II Books for the Middle Years (Grades 4-8)

    I have been on a big World War II reading kick in my own life lately. History never interested me when I was younger but these days it seems like I can’t get enough! I’ve found that I really enjoy reading about history through historical fiction books (and some really good non-fiction ones too).

    While am also reading some grown up books about WWII, a number of the books I’m reading have been in the middle years range.

    Some of the WWII books I’ve been reading lately (mid-grade and otherwise):

    Middle grade books set during World War II

     

    The following list includes about 50% of books I have read and the other 50% is on my to-read list. Normally I don’t like to share books I haven’t read on my book lists but the ones I’ve included have been recommended by a number of reliable sources so I feel like I can be fairly confident in saying they are going to be good books.

     

    OTHER POSTS YOU MAY ENJOY:

     

    Middle grade books set during World War II

     

    16 GRIPPING WWII BOOKS FOR THE MIDDLE GRADES

     

     

    This book was amazing, I listened to it a few months ago with my kids (4 & 7 at the time), the 4 year old didn’t get anything out of it but my 7 year old was just as enraptured as I was. I think this book is a good introduction to war for children. Also, we listened to the audiobook and it was fantastic, I really can’t say enough good things about it. Though, when it first started it sounded very fairytale-ish and I was wondering where it was going, but stick it out because wow, such a powerful book.

    Echo

    Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.

    Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo.

    Richly imagined and masterfully crafted, Echo pushes the boundaries of genre, form, and storytelling innovation to create a wholly original novel that will resound in your heart long after the last note has been struck.

     

     

    I had heard many good things about this book and it did not disappoint. It’s fairly short and I think it would be a good first WWII independent read for a lot of kids.

    Number the Stars

    As the German troops begin their campaign to “relocate” all the Jews of Denmark, Annemarie Johansen’s family takes in Annemarie’s best friend, Ellen Rosen, and conceals her as part of the family.

    Through the eyes of ten-year-old Annemarie, we watch as the Danish Resistance smuggles almost the entire Jewish population of Denmark, nearly seven thousand people, across the sea to Sweden. The heroism of an entire nation reminds us that there was pride and human decency in the world even during a time of terror and war.

     

     

    This is the only WWII book I remember reading as a child. I am grateful to this young Jewish girl who gave us a look into her life during the war.

    Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

    In 1942, with the Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, the Franks and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annexe” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and surprisingly humorous, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.

     

     

    This book takes a very different approach to the war than most. I think it is one that will evoke compassion in all the children who read it. There is also the sequel, The War I Finally Won.

    The War that Saved My Life

    Ten-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.

    So begins a new adventure for Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?

     

     

    This book takes a unique perspective and gives a chance to see inside the home of a Nazi spy.

    The Watcher

    1942. Berlin, Germany. How did Wendy end up in such a place? Just a few months ago, she was enjoying her time in Maine, supporting the American war effort.

    But she was kidnapped, then betrayed by her own mother, who is actually a Nazi spy. As a new Berliner—and now a German—Wendy is expected to speak in a language she’s never known and support a cause she doesn’t believe in.

    There are allies, though, among the Germans. Allies who have been watching over Wendy since she arrived. And Wendy, along with her new German shepherd puppy, must confront them. If only she can find them.

    Her life depends on it.

     

     

    Honestly, I’ve wanted to watch this movie forever but I knew it would make me cry. Now it’s not on Netflix anymore and since I’ve now read the book I’m too scared to watch the movie, I know I’ll definitely be doing the ugly cry. This.book.is.amazing. And crazy sad. Unbelievable. Definitely a must read.

    The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

    Berlin, 1942: When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move to a new house far, far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people in the distance.

    But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different from his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.

     

    This book is definitely for the grade 8 or so range but is spectacular. How many books do you read that are narrated by Death?

    The Book Thief

    When Death has a story to tell, you listen.

    It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

    Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

     

     

    The Devil’s Arithmetic

    Hannah is tired of holiday gatherings−all her family ever talks about is the past. In fact, it seems to her that’s what they do every Jewish holiday. But this year’s Passover Seder will be different−Hannah will be mysteriously transported into the past . . . and only she knows the unspeakable horrors that await.

     

     

    Hitler’s Daughter

    The bombs were falling and the smoke rising from the concentration camps, but all Hitler’s daughter knew was the world of lessons with Fraulein Gelber and the hedgehogs she rescued from the cold. Was it just a story or did Hitler’s daughter really exist? And if you were Hitler’s daughter, would all the horror that occurred be your fault, too? Do things that happened a long time ago still matter?

     

     

    I Survived: The Nazi Invasion, 1944

    In a Jewish ghetto, Max Rosen and his sister Zena struggle to live after their father is taken away by the Nazis. With barely enough food to survive, the siblings make a daring escape from Nazi soldiers into the nearby forest.

    Max and Zena are brought to a safe camp by Jewish resistance fighters. But soon, bombs are falling all around them. Can Max and Zena survive the fallout of the Nazi invasion?

     

     

    When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit

    Anna is not sure who Hitler is, but she sees his face on posters all over Berlin. Then one morning, Anna and her brother awake to find her father gone! Her mother explains that their father has had to leave and soon they will secretly join him. Anna just doesn’t understand. Why do their parents keep insisting that Germany is no longer safe for Jews like them?

    Because of Hitler, Anna must leave everything behind.

     

    Annexed

    Everyone knows about Anne Frank and her life hidden in the secret annex – but what about the boy who was also trapped there with her?

    In this powerful and gripping novel, Sharon Dogar explores what this might have been like from Peter’s point of view. What was it like to be forced into hiding with Anne Frank, first to hate her and then to find yourself falling in love with her? Especially with your parents and her parents all watching almost everything you do together. To know you’re being written about in Anne’s diary, day after day? What’s it like to start questioning your religion, wondering why simply being Jewish inspires such hatred and persecution? Or to just sit and wait and watch while others die, and wish you were fighting.

    As Peter and Anne become closer and closer in their confined quarters, how can they make sense of what they see happening around them?

    Anne’s diary ends on August 4, 1944, but Peter’s story takes us on, beyond their betrayal and into the Nazi death camps. He details with accuracy, clarity and compassion the reality of day to day survival in Auschwitz – and ultimately the horrific fates of the Annex’s occupants.

     

     

    Jabob’s Rescue

    Once Jacob Gutgeld lived with his family in a beautiful house in Warsaw, Poland. He went to school and played hide-and-seek in the woods with his friends. But everything changed the day the Nazi soldiers invaded in 1939. Suddenly it wasn’t safe to be Jewish anymore.

     

     

    Escape From Warsaw

    On a cold, dark night in Warsaw in 1942, the Balicki children watch in horror as Nazi Storm Troopers arrest their mother. Now they are alone. With the war raging around them, food and shelter are hard to come by. They live in constant fear.

    Finally, they get word that their father is alive. He has made it to Switzerland. Edek and Ruth are determined to find him, though they know how dangerous the long trip from Warsaw will be. But they also know that if they don’t make it, they may never see their parents again.

     

     

    Corrie Ten Boom: Keeper of the Angels’ Den

    One moments she is an ordinary watchmaker and then suddenly, Corrie’s ordered life was lost in the insanity of war. With bravery and compassion, her family and countless other Dutch citizens risked everything to extend God’s hand to those innocents marked for certain execution in a world gone mad.

    Corrie ten Boom’s life of determination, faith, and forgiveness in the face of unimaginable brutality and hardship is a stunning testimony to the sustaining power of God.

     

     

    Irena’s Children

    In 1942, one young social worker, Irena Sendler, was granted access to the Warsaw ghetto as a public health specialist. While she was there, she began to understand the fate that awaited the Jewish families who were unable to leave. Soon she reached out to the trapped families, going from door to door and asking them to trust her with their young children. Driven to extreme measures and with the help of a network of local tradesmen, ghetto residents, and her star-crossed lover in the Jewish resistance, Irena ultimately smuggled thousands of children past the Nazis. She made dangerous trips through the city’s sewers, hid children in coffins, snuck them under overcoats at checkpoints, and slipped them through secret passages in abandoned buildings.

    But Irena did something even more astonishing at immense personal risk: she kept a secret list buried in bottles under an old apple tree in a friend’s back garden. On it were the names and true identities of these Jewish children, recorded so their families could find them after the war. She could not know that more than ninety percent of their families would perish.

     

    Do you have any WWII books you would add to the list? Let me know below!

     

    Middle grade books set during World War II