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Books for Teenagers in Honor of Memorial Day

by Miriam Downey 21. May 2014 10:46

Sometimes in the midst of the start of the summer season, we forget that Memorial Day is a day of remembrance. It began as a holiday called Decoration Day after the Civil War when the graves of soldiers from both the South and the North were decorated with flags. In the 20th century, the holiday remained, and the country called it Memorial Day and responded by commemorating the men and women who died in all the wars fought by the United States. Honoring the war dead is an important part of the American heritage.

I recently read a book about two graduates of the U.S. Naval academy who were best friends. One became a Marine office and the other a Navy Seal. One was killed in Afghanistan and the other in Iraq. They are buried beside each other at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The book is called Brothers Forever by Silio and Manion. It is appropriate for teenagers.

Here is a sampling of the best war books appropriate for grades 6-12. Readers will learn American history and get an insight into the effect of war on the psyche of our young men and women.

The War for Independence (1775=1782)

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes. Set in Boston prior to and during the outbreak of the American Revolution. Newbery Medal.

My Brother Sam is Dead by Christopher and James Lincoln Collier. A realistic novel about the effects of the Revolution on one family.

April Morning by Howard Fast. The Battle of Lexington through the eyes of a 15-year-old soldier.

1776 by David McCullough. Factual book about one year during the War for Independence.

Civil War (1861-1865)

The River Between Us by Richard Peck. The Pruitt family helps two mysterious young women who came from New Orleans to Illinois during the war.

Soldier's Heart by Gary Paulson. Charley experiences the physical horrors and mental anguish of the Civil War.

Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt. A classic story of the Civil War.

Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. The most famous Civil War novel for teenagers.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. The Civil War through the eyes of a southern belle.

World War I (1914-1918)

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. The experiences of a group of young Germans fighting and suffering during the last days of the war.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. The story of the Italian Campaign by one of America's most famous authors.

Winged Victory by Victor Yeates. A classic description of aerial combat and the futility of war.

A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin. An old man tells a younger companion about how he became a soldier, a hero, a prisoner of war, and a deserter.

World War II (1939-1945)

Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac. A novel about the Navajo Marines during World War II.

A Boy at War: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Harry Mazer. The attack on Pearl Harbor through the eyes of a young Hawaiian boy.

Postcards from No Man's Land by Aiden Chambers. Alternates between two stories from the European front during the war.

Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society by Adeline Yen Mah. The American liberation of China from the Japanese.

Vietnam War (1954-1975)

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien is a collection of stories about a platoon of American soldiers.

The Wall by Eve Bunting. Although it is a picture book, it is a poignant look at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC.

Voices from Vietnam by Barry Denenberg. Personal narratives from the Vietnam War.

Jesse by Gary Soto. A Mexican American family is affected by the Vietnam War.

The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (2001-present)

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller. Travis returns to the US as a damaged soldier.

Off to War: Voices of Soldiers' Children by Deborah Ellis. Interviews with children whose parents have been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq.

Saving the Baghdad Zoo: A True Story of Hope and Heroes by Halls and Sumner. A photo essay about how the zoo animals in Baghdad were saved.


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