World War II often inspires historical fiction at its finest and most raw. Most of these novels will make you cry, and many reflect the violence and horrors of the times they convey. All are powerful tales of a dark time.
by Markus Zusak
In World War II Munich, a girl steals to get by. She shares stolen books with her foster father, with her neighbors during bombing raids, and with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. 1939 Nazi Germany. Ages 13 and up.
by Ruta Sepetys
The greatest maritime disaster was not the Titanic, but the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German cruise liner carrying wartime personnel and refugees to safety at the end of World War II. This tale follows four refugees through that dark night in 1945. Ages 13 and up.
by Lois Lowry
As the Germans prepare to “relocate” the Jews of occupied Denmark in 1943, the Danish resistance organizes a mass evacuation, smuggling nearly 7,000 people across the sea to safety. Ten-year-old Annemarie helps to hide her best friend. Ages 10 and up.
by Ruta Sepetys
Fifteen-year-old Lina is an ordinary Lithuanian girl living an ordinary life, until Soviet officers force her and her family onto a train to the Siberian work camps. A side of World War II history not often explored. 1939 Lithuania. Ages 12 and up.
by John Boyne
When Bruno’s father gets a promotion, the family moves to a new place surrounded by endless fences. He befriends a boy who lives on the other side of the fence, the boy in the striped pajamas. 1942 Berlin. Explores the horrors of the Holocaust from an unsuspecting angle. Ages 12 and up.
by Elizabeth Wein
When a British spy plane crashes in German-occupied territory, the captured spy doesn’t have a chance. Her Gestapo interrogator offers a simple choice: Confess, or face the consequences. Her scribbled story is a tale of friendship, failure and hope from the spy code-named Verity. 1943 occupied France. Ages 15 and up.
by Anne Blankman
Gretchen has been raised in the National Socialist Party, where her uncle Dolf keeps her protected. But when a Jewish reporter whispers tales of violence and murder, she’ll have to look beyond her sheltered life and discover the truth for herself. 1939 Germany. Ages 13 and up.
by Jane Yolen
Hannah has heard the stories of Holocaust survivors before. This Passover, she finds herself transported back to a small village at the beginning of the war, to live the stories for herself. 1940s Poland. Ages 12 and up.