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1940s: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best children's books about 1940s?

Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to 1940s. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about 1940s.

Our list includes board books, picture books, and chapter books. Board books are best for babies and toddlers from ages newborn to 2 or 3. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.

When it comes to children’s stories about 1940s, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery to popular sellers like The War That Saved My Life to some of our favorite hidden gems like Diana’s White House Garden.

We hope this list of kids books about 1940s can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.

Diana’s White House Garden
Written by Elisa Carbone & illustrated by Jen Hill
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Diana Hopkins lived in a white house. THE White House.

World War II is in full force across the seas. It’s 1943, President Roosevelt is in office, and Diana’s father, Harry Hopkins, is his chief advisor. And Diana wants to be part of the war effort. After some well-intentioned missteps (her quarantine sign on her father’s office door was not well-received), the President requests her help with his newest plan for the country’s survival: Victory Gardens! From award-winning author Elisa Carbone comes the true story of how Diana Hopkins started her own Victory Garden on the White House lawn under the tutelage of Eleanor Roosevelt. With dedication and patience, she showed the nation that the war effort started first on the homefront.

Lumber Jills
Written by Alexandra Davis & illustrated by Katie Hickey
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

In World War II, Great Britain needed lumber to make planes, ships, and even newspapers—but there weren’t enough men to cut down the trees. Enter the fearless Lumber Jills! These young women may not have had much woodcutting experience, but they each had two hands willing to work and one stout heart, and they came together to do their part. Discover this lyrical story of home front heroism and female friendship.

Joltin' Joe DiMaggio
Written by Jonah Winter & illustrated by James E. Ransome
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Bestselling author Jonah Winter and award-winning illustrator James E. Ransome knock it out of the park with this tribute to one of the greatest baseball players who ever lived, Joe DiMaggio. In the golden age of baseball, sports announcers ruled the radio, winning and losing was front-page news, and just about every young boy wanted to grow up to wear Yankee pinstripes, including Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio, Jr., a first generation Italian from San Francisco. “Baseball is not a job,” said young Joe’s dad, but through hard work and dedication, Joe grew up to make headlines as a top centerfielder and ace hitter—Joltin’ Joe, the Yankee Clipper. And when the paychecks started rolling in and the newspaper reporters wouldn’t stop calling, you can bet Pop was mighty proud! During the Depression and WWII the country needed something to cheer for, and Joe was the star player who outshone the rest, even marrying movie star Marilyn Monroe—all by keeping his mouth shut and his eye on the ball.

Night Witches at War
Written by Bruce Berglund
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-14

Flying combat missions in wartime is always dangerous. But imagine doing so in a slow, rickety biplane, at night, with no lights or navigational equipment of any kind. Sound impossible? It wasn’t for the Soviet Night Witches. This unit of incredibly brave women flew hundreds of missions to attack German forces on the front lines during World War II. Learn all about these brave women and how their skill and courage in battle helped defeat the Nazis to win the war.

It Rained Warm Bread
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-14

Moishe was thirteen when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939 and he was sent to Auschwitz. His home was ravaged, his family torn apart by illness and abduction. Years of brutality drew on as Moishe moved from one labor camp to the next. Finally, towards the end of the war and at the peak of Moishe’s deepest despair, a simple act of kindness by a group of courageous Czech women redeemed his faith that goodness could survive the trials of war: That was the day it rained warm bread. Deftly articulated and beautifully illustrated, this is a strong addition to the ever-important genre of Holocaust testimonies.

  • Players in Pigtails - Katie Casey, a fictional character, helps start the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which gave women the opportunity to play professional baseball while America was involved in World War II.

  • Navajo Code Talkers - During World War II U.S. forces had to keep battle plans and other top secret information out of the enemy’s hands. Coded messages were often used, but secret codes could be broken. To solve this problem, the U.S. military turned to an unexpected source to create an unbreakable code. The Navajo people spoke a complex language that few outsiders knew how to speak. Several Navajo soldiers were recruited to develop a code based on the Navajo language. The result was a complex code that could not be solved by the enemy. Learn all about the brave Navajo Code Talkers and how their unbreakable code helped defeat the enemy and win the war.

  • Anne Frank (Little Guides to Great Lives) - Anne Frank was an ordinary girl living in extraordinary times. Forced to go into hiding to escape the Nazis’ persecution of Jews in World War II, Anne kept a diary that would become one of the most famous books in the world. Meet one of history’s most inspiring figures in this beautifully-illustrated guide to her amazing life. From artists to aviators and scientists to revolutionaries, Little Guides to Great Lives is a brand new series of small-format guides introducing children to the most inspirational figures from history in a fun, accessible way.

  • McDuff Moves In - One rainy night, a little white dog needed something to eat and a place to sleep. He went looking and found something he didn’t expect—a home.

The Brave Princess and Me
Written by Kathy Kacer & illustrated by Juliana Kolesova
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-8

Princess Alice of Greece is known for her kindness. Born deaf, she knows what it is like to be discriminated against. In 1943 the Second World War is raging, and the Nazis have taken control of Greece. All Jews in the country are in danger, including young Tilde Cohen and her mother, Rachel. On the run, they are in search of a safe place to hide from the Nazis. When they arrive unannounced on Princess Alice’s doorstep, begging her to shelter them, the princess’s kindness is put to the test.

The War That Saved My Life
Written & illustrated by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

A young disabled girl and her brother are evacuated from London to the English countryside during World War II, where they find life to be much sweeter away from their abusive mother.

Martin and Anne
Written by Nancy Churnin & illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg
picture book
Recommend Ages: 8-11

Anne Frank and Martin Luther King Jr. were born the same year a world apart. Both faced ugly prejudices and violence, which both answered with words of love and faith in humanity. This is the story of their parallel journeys to find hope in darkness and to follow their dreams.

Infinite Hope: A Black Artist's Journey from World War II to Peace
Written & illustrated by Ashley Bryan
picture book
Recommend Ages: 10-13

In May of 1942, at the age of eighteen, Ashley Bryan was drafted to fight in World War II. For the next three years, he would face the horrors of war as a black soldier in a segregated army. He endured the terrible lies white officers told about the black soldiers to isolate them from anyone who showed kindness—including each other. He received worse treatment than even Nazi POWs. He was assigned the grimmest, most horrific tasks, like burying fallen soldiers…but was told to remove the black soldiers first because the media didn’t want them in their newsreels. And he waited and wanted so desperately to go home, watching every white soldier get safe passage back to the United States before black soldiers were even a thought. For the next forty years, Ashley would keep his time in the war a secret. But now, he tells his story. The story of the kind people who supported him. The story of the bright moments that guided him through the dark. And the story of his passion for art that would save him time and time again. Filled with never-before-seen artwork and handwritten letters and diary entries, this illuminating and moving memoir by Newbery Honor–winning illustrator Ashley Bryan is both a lesson in history and a testament to hope.

Lifeboat 12
Written by Susan Hood
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-13

In the tradition of The War That Saved My Life and Stella By Starlight, this poignant novel in verse based on true events tells the story of a boy’s harrowing experience on a lifeboat after surviving a torpedo attack during World War II. With Nazis bombing London every night, it’s time for thirteen-year-old Ken to escape. He suspects his stepmother is glad to see him go, but his dad says he’s one of the lucky ones—one of ninety boys and girls to ship out aboard the SS City of Benares to safety in Canada. Life aboard the luxury ship is grand—nine-course meals, new friends, and a life far from the bombs, rations, and his stepmum’s glare. And after five days at sea, the ship’s officers announce that they’re out of danger. They’re wrong. Late that night, an explosion hurls Ken from his bunk. They’ve been hit. Torpedoed! The Benares is sinking fast. Terrified, Ken scrambles aboard Lifeboat 12 with five other boys. Will they get away? Will they survive? Award-winning author Susan Hood brings this little-known World War II story to life in a riveting novel of courage, hope, and compassion. Based on true events and real people, Lifeboat 12 is about believing in one another, knowing that only by banding together will we have any chance to survive.

  • The Boy on the Wooden Box - Traces the story of Holocaust survivor Leon Leyson, who was the youngest child in his family and possibly the youngest of the hundreds of Jews rescued by Oskar Schindler.

  • The Brave Cyclist - Once a skinny and weak child, Gino Bartali rose to become a Tour de France champion and one of cycling’s greatest stars. But all that seemed unimportant when his country came under the grip of a brutal dictator and entered World War II on the side of Nazi Germany. Bartali might have appeared a mere bystander to the harassment and hatred directed toward Italy’s Jewish people, but secretly he accepted a role in a dangerous plan to help them. Putting his own life at risk, Bartali used his speed and endurance on a bike to deliver documents Jewish people needed to escape harm. His inspiring story reveals how one person could make a difference against violence and prejudice during the time of the Holocaust.

  • Finding Langston - A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year, with 5 Starred Reviews, and a School Library Journal Best Book of 2018 When eleven-year-old Langston’s father moves them from their home in Alabama to Chicago’s Bronzeville district, it feels like he’s giving up everything he loves. It’s 1946. Langston’s mother has just died, and now they’re leaving the rest of his family and friends. He misses everything— Grandma’s Sunday suppers, the red dirt roads, and the magnolia trees his mother loved. In the city, they live in a small apartment surrounded by noise and chaos. It doesn’t feel like a new start, or a better life. At home he’s lonely, his father always busy at work; at school he’s bullied for being a country boy. But Langston’s new home has one fantastic thing. Unlike the whites-only library in Alabama, the Chicago Public Library welcomes everyone. There, hiding out after school, Langston discovers another Langston—a poet whom he learns inspired his mother enough to name her only son after him. Lesa Cline-Ransome, author of the Coretta Scott King Honor picture book Before She Was Harriet, has crafted a lyrical debut novel about one boy’s experiences during the Great Migration. Includes an author’s note about the historical context and her research. Winner of the 2019 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction A Junior Library Guild selection!

  • The Life of - La Vida De Ritchie - Born May 13, 1941, Ritchie Valens was a Mexican-American singer, songwriter, and guitarist. His musical journey at age 5 when his father encouraged him to take up guitar. In high school, he made his performing debut with the band The Silhouettes. At 17, Ritchie recorded his final record, which included classics like “Donna” and “La Bamba”. That record went on to sell over one million copies. To this day, Ritchie Valens’ music lives on in the hearts of many!

Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code
Written by Joseph Bruchac & illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes
picture book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

As a young Navajo boy, Chester Nez had to leave the reservation and attend boarding school, where he was taught that his native language and culture were useless. But Chester refused to give up his heritage. Years later, during World War II, Chester—and other Navajo men like him—was recruited by the US Marines to use the Navajo language to create an unbreakable military code. Suddenly the language he had been told to forget was needed to fight a war. This powerful picture book biography contains backmatter including a timeline and a portion of the Navajo code, and also depicts the life of an original Navajo code talker while capturing the importance of heritage.

Touch the Sky
Written by Ann Malaspina & illustrated by Eric Velasquez
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A biography of the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal, from her childhood in segregated Albany, Georgia, in the 1930s, through her recognition at the 1996 Olympics as one of the hundred best athletes in Olympic history. Includes bibliographical references.

Barbed Wire Baseball
Written by Marissa Moss & illustrated by Yuko Shimizu
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-10

Traces the childhood dream of Japanese-American baseball pioneer Kenichi Zenimura of playing professionally and his family’s struggles in a World War II internment camp where he introduces baseball to raise hope.

Soldier Dogs #1: Air Raid Search and Rescue
Written by Marcus Sutter & illustrated by Pat Kinsella
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

The paw-biting start to a thrilling new adventure series perfect for fans of Max and the I Survived books, inspired by the brave military dogs who helped our troops win World War II. When Matt’s older brother enlisted in the army, he left Matt his German Shepherd, Chief, a retired fire dog and the best pet EVER. So Matt isn’t happy when Chief starts paying attention to his foster sister Rachel instead of him. But when Nazi planes begin bombing the city, Matt finds himself in an impossible situation. Can he be a hero to his sister when it matters most? And when they get caught outside during the air raid, will Chief be there to save the day? This paper-over-board edition includes a collectible poster and a pull-out map!

Coming on Home Soon
Written by Jacqueline Woodson & illustrated by E.B. Lewis
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Ada Ruth’s mama must go away to Chicago to work, leaving Ada Ruth and Grandma behind. It’s war time, and women are needed to fill the men’s jobs. As winter sets in, Ada Ruth and her grandma keep up their daily routine, missing Mama all the time. They find strength in each other, and a stray kitten even arrives one day to keep them company, but nothing can fill the hole Mama left. Every day they wait, watching for the letter that says Mama will be coming on home soon. Set during World War II, Coming On Home Soon has a timeless quality that will appeal to all who wait and hope.

  • The Watcher - After Wendy is kidnapped, the only way she can survive World War II Germany is with the help of a special dog and the family she never knew she had in this historically accurate, standalone companion to Shadows on the Sea that Kirkus Reviews calls “a stimulating blend of suspense and history.” 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.

  • The Rhino in Right Field - A boy who loves baseball must get past his hard-working immigrant parents—and the rhino in the outfield—to become a batboy in this laugh-out-loud middle-grade novel in the tradition of The Sandlot.

  • Candy Bomber - “World War II was over, and Berlin was in ruins. US Air Force Lieutenant Gail Halvorsen knew the children of the city were suffering. They were hungry and afraid. The young pilot wanted to help, but what could one man in one plane do?”—Dust jacket flap.

  • Dust of Eden - In 1942, 13-year-old Mina Masako Tagawa and her Japanese American family are sent from their home in Seattle to an internment camp in Idaho. All they can do is wonder when America will remember that they, too, are Americans. This memorable and powerful novel in verse, written by award-winning author Mariko Nagai, explores the nature of fear, the beauty of life, and the hope of acceptance triumphing over bigotry.

Women Who Launched the Computer Age
Written by Laurie Calkhoven & illustrated by Alyssa Petersen
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 6-8

This book was chosen by the Children’s Book Council as a best STEM book of 2017!

Meet the women who programmed the first all-electronic computer and built the technological language kids today can’t live without in this fascinating, nonfiction Level 3 Ready-to-Read, part of a new series of biographies about people “you should meet!”

In 1946, six brilliant young women programmed the first all-electronic, programmable computer, the ENIAC, part of a secret World War II project. They learned to program without any programming languages or tools, and by the time they were finished, the ENIAC could run a complicated calculus equation in seconds. But when the ENIAC was presented to the press and public, the women were never introduced or given credit for their work. Learn all about what they did and how their invention still matters today in this story of six amazing young women everyone should meet!

A special section at the back of the book includes extras on subjects like history and math, plus interesting trivia facts about how computers have changed over time. With the You Should Meet series, learning about historical figures has never been so much fun!

Beholding Bee
Written & illustrated by Kimberly Newton Fusco
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

In 1942, when life turns sour at the carnival that has always been her home, eleven-year-old Bee takes her dog, Peabody, and piglet, Cordelia, and sets out to find a real home, aided by two women only Bee and her pets can see.

Spies, Lies, and Disguise
Written by Jennifer Swanson & illustrated by Kevin O'Malley
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-11

In the late 1930s, times were desperate. The world found itself at war again, less than twenty years after the first World War had ended. No one could quite believe it. The leaders of every country involved were left with no choice. They had to try to end the war as fast as possible, using whatever means they could.

That meant coming up with secret operations meant to deceive, deflect, and confuse their enemies. Poison the cattle that the Germans eat? Deliberately float a corpse dressed as a spy across the water to have it wash up on Germany’s shore? These were all real tactics attempted with the ultimate goal of defeating Hitler. Readers will be captivated by the classified and covert efforts made by each side as they tried to gain the upper hand and win the war.

The Chaos Loop
Written by Peter Lerangis
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Peter Lerangis, the New York Times bestselling author of the Seven Wonders and Max Tilt series, returns with the second installment of his electrifying trilogy about a boy who discovers that he alone can alter the course of history.

Ever since Corey Fletcher found out that he’s the world’s first “throwback,” with the power to not only visit history, but change it, he’s been spending as much time in the past as possible. Corey loves using his skills to fix problems and help his friends and family. But as Corey becomes more and more addicted to rewriting history, he learns that time travel might change him in ways he may never be able to reverse.

Aware now that he can’t keep going into the past forever, Corey decides to use the trips he still has to change history in the most meaningful way he can imagine: by stopping Adolf Hitler. But when Corey travels back to World War II-era Germany, he quickly learns that the forces of history are strong and that it’s going to take a lot more than his good intentions to turn back the tides of evil—or even to survive them.

Get ready for time-warping adventure with a historical twist in the second book of the Throwback trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Peter Lerangis, whose books have sold over five and a half million copies worldwide.

Dear Hank Williams
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

It’s 1948 in Rippling Creek, Louisiana, and Tate P. Ellerbee’s new teacher has just given her class an assignment—learning the art of letter-writing. Luckily, Tate has the perfect pen pal in mind: Hank Williams, a country music singer whose star has just begun to rise. Tate and her great-aunt and -uncle listen to him on the radio every Saturday night, and Tate just knows that she and Hank are kindred spirits. Told entirely through Tate’s hopeful letters, this beautifully drawn novel from National Book Award–winning author Kimberly Willis Holt gradually unfolds a story of family love, overcoming tragedy, and an insightful girl learning to find her voice.

  • Autumn Street - Elizabeth is forced to grow up when her father goes to fight in World War II. Her family moves in with her grandfather, and a special friend is struck by tragedy. An ALA Notable Children’s Book.

  • Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself - Sally investigates post-WWII Florida with theatrical flair in this classic middle grade novel from Judy Blume. Now with a fresh new look! Sally J. Freedman was ten when she made herself a movie star. She would have been happy to reach stardom in New Jersey, but in 1947 her older brother Douglas became ill, so the Freedman family traveled south to spend eight months in the sunshine of Florida. That’s where Sally met her friends Andrea, Barbara, Shelby, Peter, and Georgia Blue Eyes—and her unsuspecting enemy, Adolf Hitler. Dear Chief of Police:
    You don’t know me but I am a detective from New Jersey. I have uncovered a very interesting case down here. I have discovered that Adolf Hitler is alive and has come to Miami Beach to retire. He is pretending to be an old Jewish man…
    While she watches and waits, and keeps a growing file of letters under her bed, Sally’s Hitler will play an important—though not quite starring—role in one of her grandest movie spectaculars.

  • A Whale in Paris - A hopeful and heroic girl befriends a small, lost whale during World War II and together they embark on a journey to liberate France and find their families in this charming debut novel.

  • The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery - Flossie Birdwhistle is the Turnkey at London’s Highgate Cemetery. As Turnkey, it’s Flossie’s job to ensure that all the souls buried in the cemetery stay at rest. Not an easy job for a young ghost, but a task made especially difficult by World War II: London is being attacked every night by enemy bombers, and even the dead are unsettled. When Flossie encounters the ghost of a German soldier carrying a mysterious object that seems to exist in both the living and spirit worlds, she becomes suspicious—what is the officer up to? Before long, Flossie uncovers a sinister plot that could destroy not only her cemetery, but also her beloved country. Can Flossie and her ghostly friends stop the soldier before it’s too late? History collides with the supernatural in this exciting, ethereal mystery from Allison Rushby.

Dirt on Their Skirts: The Story of the Young Women who Won the World Championship
Written by Lyndall Callan and Doreen Rappaport & illustrated by E. B. Lewis
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

You had to be really, really good to play in the 1946 championship game between the Racine Belles and the Rockford Peaches. Sitting in the stands, Margaret thrills to every crack of the bat. Someday she hopes to join her heroes like Sophie “the Flash” Kurys and Betty “Moe” Trezza. As the ball hurtles toward the plate, Margaret can almost feel what it would be like to be in that batter’s position, arms tensed, bat held high.As we see this historic game in the annals of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League through the eyes of a fictional young girl, Dirt on Their Skirts is a potent reminder that women athletes have inspired young fans throughout the twentieth century. Based on written accounts and on the memories of the players themselves, this exciting story is for all those sandlot sluggers whose hearts beat a little faster whenever they hear the words?”Play ball!”

My Chocolate Year
Written by Charlotte Herman & illustrated by LeUyen Pham
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

In 1945 Chicago, as her Jewish family anxiously awaits news of relatives left behind in Europe, ten-year-old Dorrie learns new recipes in the hope of winning a baking competition at school. Includes recipes for various foods, from chocolate pudding to chocolate mandelbread.

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