Brilliant books to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day

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May 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of VE Day and households across the country will be joining in a moment of reflection and remembrance on Friday 8th May. To help children understand and appreciate the significance of this, we have put together a list of some of our favourite books set around World War II:

The Bear Who Went to War, by Alan Pollock, illustrated by Bryony Thomson, published by Old Barn Books

The Bear Who Went to War is the debut children’s book by playwright Alan Pollock, illustrated by Bryony Thomson. It tells the remarkable true story of Wojtek, a brown bear who was recruited into the Polish army during the Second World War and helped to fight the Nazis at the Battle of Monte Cassino by boosting morale and carrying artillery shells to resupply Allied troops. Wotjek retired after the war to Edinburgh Zoo and is commemorated with a statue in Princess Street Gardens, Edinburgh.

Bombs & Blackberries: A World War Two Play by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Thomas Docherty, published by Hodder Children’s Books

A short illustrated play set in World War Two, perfect for class reading as well as performance, written by Julia Donaldson, author of the modern classic The Gruffalo.

World War Two has been declared and the Chiver’s children are sent to the safety of the countryside. They are delighted to be brought back home when it looks like the Germans aren’t going to invade after all. But the air-raid siren goes off and this time
it’s frighteningly real.

This dramatic and touching play brings Manchester during the Second World War and its people to life, and provides a variety of opportunities for school classes to explore both historical and literacy topics in an involving and creative setting. Also
includes helpful tips on staging and costume.

My Friend The Enemy, by Dan Smith, published by Chicken House

War comes to Peter when a German plane crashes into the woods
near where he lives. Peter rushes to the crash site hoping to find
something to keep – but what he finds instead is an injured young
German airman in need of his help …

Umbrella Mouse, by Anna Farghar, illustrated by Sam Usher, published by Macmillan

A timeless tale of courage, resistance and friendship, The Umbrella Mouse is a heart-stopping adventure drawing on the true stories of animals caught in the conflict of WWII, winner of the 2019 Sainsbury’s Book Prize for Fiction and selected for Waterstones Book of the Month. 

1944, and London is under attack. Young mouse Pip Hanway’s safe and quiet 

world is turned upside down when her home, umbrella shop James Smith & Sons, is destroyed by a bomb. Orphaned and alone, she must begin a perilous quest to find a new home. 

But the only way to get there is by joining Noah’s Ark, a secret gang of animals fighting with the resistance in France, operating beneath the feet of the human soldiers. Danger is everywhere and as the enemy closes in, Pip must risk everything to save her new friends.

Beautifully illustrated by Sam Usher, Anna Fargher’s novel takes you on an incredible journey through a war that reaches even the smallest of creatures.

Our Castle By The Sea, by Lucy Strange, published by Chicken House

It’s 1939 and England is at war. Growing up in a lighthouse, Pet’s world has been one of storms, secret tunnels and stories about sea monsters. But now the clifftops are a terrifying battleground, and her family is torn apart. This is the story of a girl who is small, afraid

 and unnoticed. A girl who freezes with fear at the enemy planes ripping through the skies overhead. A girl who is somehow destined to become part of the strange, ancient legend of the Daughters of Stone … 

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, by Judith Kerr, published by HarperCollins

This internationally acclaimed story of one Jewish family’s flight from Hitler’s Germany has become a much-loved classic, and has been in print since its debut 45 years ago.

Suppose your country began to change. Suppose that without your noticing, it became dangerous for some people to live in Germany any longer. Suppose you found, to your complete surprise, that your own father was one of those people.

That is what happened to Anna in 1933. She was nine years old when it beg

an, too busy to take much notice of political posters, but out of them glared the face of Adolf Hitler, the man who would soon change the whole of Europe – starting with her own small life.

One day, Anna’s father was missing. Then she herself and her brother Max were being rushed by their mother, in alarming secrecy, away from everything they knew – home and schoolmates and well-loved toys – right out of Germany…

Flamingo Boy, by Michael Morpurgo, published by HarperCollins Children’s Books

This is a landmark new novel from the nation’s favourite storyteller, set in the unique landscape of the Camargue in the South of France during WW2. There, a young autistic boy lives on his parents’ farm among the salt flats, and the flamingos that live there. There are lots of things he doesn’t understand: but he does know how to heal animals. He loves routine, and music too: and every week he goes to market with his mother, to ride his special horse on the town carousel.

But then the Germans come, with their guns, and take the town. A soldier shoots a flamingo from the sky, and it falls to earth terribly injured. And even worse is to come: the carousel is damaged, the horses broken. For this vulnerable boy, everything is falling apart.

Only there’s a kind sergeant among the Germans – a man with a young boy of his own at home, a man who trained as a carpenter. Between them, perhaps boy and man can mend what has been broken – and maybe even the whole town…

Grandpa’s Great Escape, written by David Walliams and illustrated by Tony Ross, published by HarperCollins

Jack’s Grandpa…

  • wears his slippers to the supermarket
  • serves up Spam à la Custard for dinner
  • and often doesn’t remember Jack’s name

But he can still take to the skies in a speeding Spitfire and save the day…

An exquisite portrait of the bond between a small boy and his beloved Grandpa – this book takes readers on an incredible journey with Spitfires over London and Great Escapes through the city in a high octane adventure full of comedy and heart.