Best Children's Books About War

26 Children's Books About War

Updated Jan. 19, 2019
Ender's Game book
#1
Ender's Game
Written by Orson Scott Card
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 12-16

A veteran of years of simulated war games, Ender believes he is engaged in one more computer war game when in truth he is commanding the last fleet of Earth against an alien race seeking the complete destruction of Earth.

The Wall book
#2
The Wall
Written by Eve Bunting
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

A boy and his father come from far away to visit the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington and find the name of the boy's grandfather, who was killed in the conflict.

Nurse, Soldier, Spy book
#3
Nurse, Soldier, Spy
Written by Marissa Moss and illustrated by John Hendrix
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

This is the incredible true story of Sarah Emma Edmonds, who dressed as a man and fought in the Civil War. When she was 19, Sarah cut her hair, donned her brother's clothes, and fled from Canada, where her father wanted her to marry an elderly gentleman. In the U.S., she went by the name Frank Thompson and joined the Army to fight the Confederates. She was a nurse working on the battlefield when, because of her heroism, she was asked to serve as a spy. At her death, Edmonds was buried in a military cemetery, in a plot reserved for Civil War veterans--the only woman to have this honor.

Renato and the Lion book
#4
Renato and the Lion
Written and illustrated by Barbara Dilorenzo
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-7

The touching, magical story of a boy in a war-torn country and the stone lion that rescues him. Renato loves his home in Florence, Italy. He loves playing with his friends in the Piazza della Signoria. He loves walking home by the beautiful buildings and fountains with his father in the evenings. And he especially loves the stone lion who seems to smile at him from a pedestal in the piazza. The lion makes him feel safe. But one day his father tells him that their family must leave. Their country is at war, and they will be safer in America. Renato can only think of his lion. Who will keep him safe? With luminous watercolor paintings, Barbara DiLorenzo captures the beauty of Florence in this heartwarming and ultimately magical picture book.

The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery book
#5
The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery
Written by Allison Rushby
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

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.

Ben's Revolution book
#6
Ben's Revolution
Written by Nathaniel Philbrick and illustrated by Wendell Minor
picture book
Recommend Ages: 7-9

History comes alive in this gripping account of a young boy caught up in the start of the Revolutionary War. Based on an episode in National Book Award–winning author Nathaniel Philbrick’s New York Times bestseller Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution, this engrossing story allows readers to experience history from a child’s perspective, and Wendell Minor’s stunning paintings will transport readers back to the early days of the Revolutionary War. Benjamin Russell is in school on the morning of April 19th, 1775, when his teacher announces, “The war’s begun, and you may run!” Ben knew this day was coming; after all, tensions had been mounting between the colonists and the British troops ever since the Boston Tea Party. And now they have finally reached the breaking point. Ben and his friends excitedly rush out of their classroom to bear witness, and follow the throngs of redcoats marching out of Boston toward Concord. Much to Ben’s surprise, Boston is sealed off later that day—leaving the boys stuck outside the city, in the middle of a war, with no way to reach their families. But Ben isn’t worried—he’s eager to help the Patriots! He soon becomes a clerk to the jovial Israel Putnam, a general in the provincial army. For months he watches the militia grow into an organized army, and when the Battle of Bunker Hill erupts, Ben is awed by the bravery of the Patriots, although saddened by the toll war takes. He later goes on to become an apprentice at a Revolutionary newspaper, and it’s a happy day when they get to report on the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

The Day War Came book
#7
The Day War Came
Written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Rebecca Cobb
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Imagine if, on an ordinary day, after a morning of studying tadpoles and drawing birds at school, war came to your town and turned it to rubble. Imagine if you lost everything and everyone, and you had to make a dangerous journey all alone. Imagine that there was no welcome at the end, and no room for you to even take a seat at school. And then a child, just like you, gave you something ordinary but so very, very precious. In lyrical, deeply affecting language, Nicola Davies’s text combines with Rebecca Cobb’s expressive illustrations to evoke the experience of a child who sees war take away all that she knows.

Ruby in the Ruins book
#8
Ruby in the Ruins
Written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9

From beloved British storyteller Shirley Hughes comes a touching tale of unconditional love as a family puts itself back together in postwar London. Ruby and Mum cling to each other while they live through the terrifying London Blitz, waiting for Dad to come home from the war. Day after day they hope for his return -- but when the moment to meet him at the station finally comes, Ruby hardly recognizes the tall man who steps off the train. He's big and sunburned, and he doesn't seem to be as engaged as he once was. It's easier to play outside in the wreckage of the bombings than to stay at home with a dad she doesn't know anymore. But when Ruby hurts her knee in the ruins, there's only one person who can rescue her and make her feel all right.

Sophia's War book
#9
Sophia's War
Written by Avi
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

In 1776, young Sophia Calderwood witnesses the execution of Nathan Hale in New York City, which is newly occupied by the British army. Sophia is horrified by the event and resolves to do all she can to help the American cause. Recruited as a spy, she becomes a maid in the home of General Clinton, the supreme commander of the British forces in America. Through her work she becomes aware that someone in the American army might be switching sides, and she uncovers a plot that will grievously damage the Americans if it succeeds. But the identity of the would-be traitor is so shocking that no one believes her, and so Sophia decides to stop the treacherous plot herself, at great personal peril: She’s young, she’s a girl, and she’s running out of time. And if she fails, she’s facing an execution of her own. Master storyteller Avi shows exactly how personal politics can be in this “nail-biting thriller” (Publishers Weekly) that is rich in historical detail and rife with action.

Lifeboat 12 book
#10
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 Player King book
#11
The Player King
Written and illustrated by Avi
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

“Swiftly moving and utterly engrossing.” —Shelf Awareness Parents’ Choice Recommended From Newbery Award–winning author Avi comes the gripping and amazingly true tale of a boy plucked from the gutter to become the King of England. England, 1486. King Henry VII has recently snatched the English Crown and now sits on the throne, while young Prince Edward, who has a truer claim, has apparently disappeared. Meanwhile, a penniless kitchen boy named Lambert Simnel is slaving away at a tavern in Oxford—until a mysterious friar, Brother Simonds, buys Lambert from the tavern keeper and whisks him away in the dead of night. But this is nothing compared to the secret that the friar reveals: You, Lambert, are actually Prince Edward, the true King of England! With the aid of the deceitful Earl of Lincoln, Brother Simonds sets out to teach the boy how to become the rightful English king. Lambert has everything to gain and nothing to lose, or so he thinks. Yet in this dangerous battle for the throne, Lambert is not prepared for what’s to come—or for what it really means to play at being a king.

The Not-So-Boring Letters of Private Nobody book
#12
The Not-So-Boring Letters of Private Nobody
Written by Matthew Landis
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

Twelve-year-old Oliver Prichard is obsessed with the Civil War. He knows everything about it: the battles, the generals, every movement of the Union and Confederate Armies. So when the last assignment of seventh-grade history is a project on the Civil War, Oliver is over the moon–until he’s partnered with Ella Berry, the slacker girl with the messy hair who does nothing but stare out the window. And when Oliver finds out they have to research a random soldier named Private Raymond Stone who didn’t even fight in any battles before dying of some boring disease, Oliver knows he’s doomed. But Ella turns out to be very different from what Oliver expected. As the partners film their documentary about Private Stone–with Oliver’s friend Kevin signing on as their head writing consultant–Oliver discovers that sometimes the most interesting things are hiding in uninteresting places. Even Private Stone is better than expected: There’s a mystery buried in his past, and Oliver knows he can figure it out.

The War I Finally Won book
#13
The War I Finally Won
Written and illustrated by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

A New York Times bestseller Like the classic heroines of Sarah, Plain and Tall, Little Women, and Anne of Green Gables, Ada is a fighter for the ages. Her triumphant World War II journey continues in this sequel to the Newbery Honor-winning The War that Saved My Life When Ada's clubfoot is surgically fixed at last, she knows for certain that she's not what her mother said she was--damaged, deranged, crippled mentally as well as physically. She's not a daughter anymore, either. Who is she now? World War II rages on, and Ada and her brother, Jamie, move with their guardian, Susan, into a cottage with the iron-faced Lady Thorton and her daughter, Maggie. Life in the crowded home is tense. Then Ruth moves in. Ruth, a Jewish girl, from Germany. A German? Could Ruth be a spy? As the fallout from war intensifies, calamity creeps closer, and life during wartime grows even more complicated. Who will Ada decide to be? How can she keep fighting? And who will she struggle to save?

The War That Saved My Life book
#14
The War That Saved My Life
Written and 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.

The Wolf Wilder book
#15
The Wolf Wilder
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

In the days before the Russian Revolution, twelve-year-old Feodora sets out to rescue her mother when the Tsar's Imperial Army imprisons her for teaching tamed wolves to fend for themselves.

The Sinking of the Vasa book
#16
The Sinking of the Vasa
Written by Russell Freedman and illustrated by William Low
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9

Newbery Medalist Freedman explores the mystery of the sinking of the great Swedish warship, the "Vasa, " on her maiden voyage in 1628, and her resurrection from the seas centuries later. Full color.

Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code book
#17
Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code
Written by Joseph Bruchac and 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.

A Blinding Light book
#18
A Blinding Light
Written and illustrated by Julie Lawson
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

The First World War is raging, and anti-German prejudice is rampant. Maddie and Will Schroeder are mourning the loss of their father, but their German heritage doesn’t merit much sympathy. On the morning of December 6, there’s a flash of light, then thunder underground: the Halifax Explosion hits. Instantly, the city is unrecognizable. Lost in the destroyed city, how will the siblings find each other? Exploring concepts of guilt, blame and the divide between locals and immigrants, A Blinding Light will hold readers spellbound. Teachers and parents will find plenty of topics for discussion in the book’s historical and cultural lessons.

The Eleventh Trade book
#19
The Eleventh Trade
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

From debut author Alyssa Hollingsworth comes a story about living with fear, being a friend, and finding a new place to call home. They say you can't get something for nothing, but nothing is all Sami has. When his grandfather’s most-prized possession—a traditional Afghan instrument called a rebab—is stolen, Sami resolves to get it back. He finds it at a music store, but it costs $700, and Sami doesn’t have even one penny. What he does have is a keychain that has caught the eye of his classmate. If he trades the keychain for something more valuable, could he keep trading until he has $700? Sami is about to find out. The Eleventh Trade is both a classic middle school story and a story about being a refugee. Like Katherine Applegate, author of Wishtree, Alyssa Hollingsworth tackles a big issue with a light touch.

Dragon Bones book
#20
Dragon Bones
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Ten years after Alex and Aaron Stowe brought peace to Quill and Artimé, their younger twin sisters journey beyond Artimé in the second novel in the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling sequel series to The Unwanteds, which Kirkus Reviews called “The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter.” The Artiméans have suffered some devastating blows. After years of peace, the recent daring adventure of twins Thisbe and Fifer Stowe have brought about dire consequences. Thisbe has been captured, Fifer is injured, and Sky is lost at sea. The twins’ older brother Alex, head mage of Artimé, is paralyzed with fear of losing anyone else he loves. Fifer must convince him to finally trust her to help in the battle ahead now that their true enemy has been revealed. Meanwhile Thisbe is trapped underground in the catacombs, where the ancient dragon rulers are buried. Along with fellow prisoners, Thisbe’s job is to transport dragon bones from her crypt to the extracting room, where others extract the magical properties dormant in the bones. When it appears no one is coming back to rescue her, Thisbe must train in secret, trying to learn how to control her fiery magic and use it to escape. As her situation becomes more grave, she might even have to align herself with the ultimate evil. Unfortunately it’s a risk she has to take.

Dragon Ghosts book
#21
Dragon Ghosts
Written by Lisa Mcmann
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Ten years after Alex and Aaron Stowe brought peace to Quill and Artimé, their younger twin sisters journey beyond Artimé in the third novel in the New York Times bestselling sequel series to The Unwanteds, which Kirkus Reviews called “The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter.” Devastated by loss and hampered by war, Fifer struggles to regroup and continue the search for her twin. Meanwhile Thisbe, pounded by images of Grimere’s dark history, contemplates her abandonment and considers leaving Rohan behind in a risky move that could take her home…or to her death.

Captain Rosalie book
#22
Captain Rosalie
Written by Timothée de Fombelle and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
picture book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Timothée de Fombelle and Isabelle Arsenault capture the heart-wrenching cost of war for one small girl in a delicately drawn, expertly told tale. While her father is at war, five-year-old Rosalie is a captain on her own secret mission. She wears the disguise of a little girl and tracks her progress in a secret notebook. Some evenings, Rosalie's mother reads aloud Father's letters from the front lines, so that Rosalie knows he is thinking of her and looking forward to the end of the war and to finally coming home. But one day a letter comes that her mother doesn't read to her, and Rosalie knows her mission must soon come to an end. Author Timothée de Fombelle reveals the true consequence of war through the experiences of small, determined Rosalie, while acclaimed artist Isabelle Arsenault illustrates Rosalie's story in muted grays marked with soft spots of color -- the orange flame of Rosalie's hair, the pale pink of a scarf, the deep blue ink of her father's letters. All the more captivating for the simplicity with which it is drawn and told, this quiet tale will stay with the reader long after its last page is turned.

Ali's Story book
#23
Ali's Story
Written and illustrated by Andy Glynne
picture book
Recommend Ages: 8-9

This is the real-life story of 10-year-old refugee Ali, who is forced to flee his home country of Afganistan with his grandmother. Told in Ali's words, this story documents the feelings of alienation, separation, and suffering war can place on immigrant children and their families. This story also shares the hope Ali and his family has to overcome their ordeals.

The Most Beautiful Village in the World book
#24
The Most Beautiful Village in the World
Written and illustrated by Yutaka Kobayashi
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-7

A young boy, Yamo, lives in the Afghan village of Paghman. The peaceful village is surrounded by the bounty of nature. Fruit trees burst into bloom in the spring, and in the summer, Yamo's whole family joins in harvesting apricots, plums, and cherries--breaking into song as they pick. This year, for the first time, Yamo goes to the market in town to sell their harvest with his father. He is filling in for his older brother, who is off fighting in the war. After they have sold their fruit, his father uses the income to buy a white baby lamb. Readers will feel experience the deep love of the family, enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the landscape, and vivid activities at the town market. Then on the final page, readers will be stunned to learn: "This winter, my village was destroyed by the war, and now it's all gone." This book, the first of three in the Yamo's Village series, leads the young reader to think in real terms about the meaning of war and its impact. And they understand that there used to be many beautiful villages in Afghanistan.

The Boy on the Wooden Box book
#25
The Boy on the Wooden Box
Written by Leon Leyson
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-14

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.

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