World War II YA Novels

code name verity


Wein, Elizabeth. Code Name Verity. Disney-Hyperion, 2012. 352 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1423152194

During World War II a British spy is captured and held by the gestapo in France.

Historical Fiction

Age Range 14-18

5 out of 5 for quality

School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, 2012; Agatha Award Nominee for YA, 2012; Edgar Award for YA, 2013; Printz Honor, 2013; Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor for Fiction, 2012; YALSA Best Fiction for YA (Top 10), 2013; ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2013.

This is an exciting mystery, with confusing perspectives of two young women who work in the military in England during World War II. One is a spy, captured by the gestapo in France, and it is she who tells the story of their friendship. This is one of those books where the less said, the better. The writing is excellent, the tension holds, the mystery interesting all the way through. Also, I cried.

Other reading:

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

B for Buster by Iain Lawrence

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


Author Website



Sheinkin, Steve. Bomb: The Race to Build-and Steal-the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon. Flash Point, 2012. 272 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1596434875

A nonfiction thrilling story of the development of the first atomic bomb.


Age Range 12-17

5 out of 5 for quality

National Book Award Nominee, 2012; Newbery Honor Book, 2012; ALA Notable book for middle readers, 2013; YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, 2013; Silbert medal, 2013.

Bomb is an exceptional kind of nonfiction that draws the reader along to find out what happens next. It follows many narratives: spies working to undermine the German atomic program, scientists working in the United States building the bomb, and spies in the US sending secrets of these weapons to the USSR. Each storyline looks at the different historical figures who worked on the frontlines of science and espionage. Slowly the story develops as the bomb develops; the writing is clear and the science behind the work explained in enough detail for the reader to understand some of the problems, success and turmoil that surrounded this project. Amidst all the discussion of the bomb, Shenkin looks into the lives and actions of the spies who worked on behalf of the USSR, and gives the context of why American scientists would choose to send plans of the atomic bomb to the country that would become America’s #1 enemy in the years following World War II.

This book was a surprise, as it was a subject matter I was wary of and I had concerns about the potential glorification of the atomic weapons program. I came away very impressed with the discussion of the perceived need for the development of the weapon as well as the horror of the weapon completion. Despite being a book intended for teens, Shenkin is willing to lay out all the hard choices and shades of grey that enter into discussions like this. I certainly came away with better insight and greater appreciation for the complexity of the atomic weapon issue.

Other books of interest:

Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr and Ronald Himler


Author Website


Sydney Taylor Book Award

sydney taylor book award

The Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience. Presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries since 1968, the award encourages the publication and widespread use of quality Judaic literature. Gold medals are presented in three categories:Younger ReadersOlder Readers, and Teen Readers. Honor Books are awarded silver medals, and Notable Books are named in each category. (From the website

number the stars

Lowry, Lois. Number the Stars. Laurel Leaf, 1989. 137pages. $16.99 ISBN-13: 978-0395510605

Annemarie and her family help their Jewish friends escape German occupied Denmark during World War 2.

Historical Fiction

Age Range 8-13

Rating: 4 out of 5 for quality, 4 out of 5 for popularity.

Newbery Medal, 1990

Sydney Taylor Book Award for Older Readers, 1989

National Jewish Book award, 1990

Annemarie and her best friend Ellen live in Copenhagen during World War II. There are food shortages and no one drinks coffee anymore. While the Germans have occupied the city for some time, suddenly word has come that they plan on relocating the Jews in Copenhagen, so Annemarie’s parents take Ellen in so they can help her and her parents travel across the bay to safety in Sweden. The story is exciting and sweet, the willingness of the young girls to accept the strangeness and learn about courage beautifully told. The story of Denmark, which surrendered to the Germans in World War II to protect its citizens, and the beloved King who still travels around the streets to encourage his people even in times of hardship is very moving. While this is a story about two families, it is also the story of a nation trying to do right, as well as of the resistance movement. The strength of this book is in its simple storytelling and its willingness to introduce children to the hard topics of the holocaust and racism. While the writing is good and the story important, what this book lacks is staying power, I distinctly remember the cover from reading is as a 5th grader, but a couple decades later and my reread was like a first time read. I have fairly good retention for books read and loved that long ago, but perhaps in the effort of taming an incredibly scary and violent story to one that could be read by young children takes away some of its punch.


Saving Sky by Diane Stanley

The Good Liar by Gregory Maguire

Journey to America by Sonia Levitin

Book Discussion

  1. Why does Annemarie choose to accept the limited information she gets from her uncle? Would you have been able to keep from being curious to be safe?
  2. Annemarie did not think she could was brave, do you think she was brave?

Book Talking

Would you be brave is soldiers came into your home and you had to pretend your best friend was your sister to save her life? Annemarie was brave, but she didn’t think so.


Lowis Lowry website

Information about the Occupation of Denmark

Video interview




Deutsh, Barry. Hereville #1: How Mirka Got Her Sword. Amulet Books, 2010. 144 pages.  $15.95 ISBN-13: 978-0810984226

Mirka must fight a talking pig and defeat a troll to follow her dream of being a dragonslayer from a small Orthodox Jewish community.

Fantasy Graphic Novel

Age Range 8-14

Rating 3 out of 5 for quality, 3 out of 5 of popularity.

Sydney Taylor Book Award for Older Readers, 2011

Andre Norton Award Nominee for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2010

Mirka is 11 and lives in a small Orthodox Jewish community with her stepmother, father and pack of siblings. She tried to help her younger brother with bullies and ends up finding a witches house. After stealing a grape from the house, she is attacked by a talking pig who pursues her throughout the week until she is able to defeat him. After helping it she gets help from the witch who tells her how to get the sword that could lead her down her dream path of becoming a dragon slayer. In the midst of this fantasy adventure involving witches, talking pigs and trolls, the story tells details about the Orthodox Jewish faith, what Shabbos looks like and how Mirka’s family relationships are structured, both in their support and in the daily challenges. For me the book’s graphic novel structure makes it more interesting than the story would alone, since the artist does an excellent job of illustrating emotions and expressions of its characters. I also appreciate the religious setting, giving kids interested in comics and fantasy an introduction to perhaps an unknown lifestyle.  I think the cover and description of this graphic novel are irresistible. The unusual mix of adventure, knitting, and family make this very appealing book to recommend.


Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Madeleine L’Engle and Hope Larson

Hildafolk by Luke Pearson

Book Discussion

  1. How does this story tell about the life and family of Mirka?
  2. How does the author tie in knitting? Why is knitting important?

Book Talking

How many comic books are about 11 year old Orthodox Jewish girls who fight trolls? What is not to love?


Author interview