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4 books share about World War I, World War II for young readers
"Callahan Crossroads" is by Anola Pickett. - photo by Deseret Connect
These four books that have crossed our desks recently share stories about World War I and World War II and are for middle grade and young adult readers.


"CALLAHAN CROSSROADS," by Anola Pickett, Sweetwater Books, $12.99, 185 pages (f) (ages 8-12)

Author Anola Pickett shares a historical fiction story of World War I from the perspective of a 12-year-old boy in "Callahan Crossroads."

In 1918 Kansas, George Callahan wants to catch German spies by listening in on party-line phone conversations. But, there are always chores to do and tattling little sisters getting in his way. While trying to prove how grown-up he is to his parents and other adults, George finds himself protecting an elderly neighbor against wartime prejudice and trying to make sense of the world around him.

The situations include Jimmy, George's best friend, and his family living with an abusive father. All the older boys are heading off to war, but George's brother has other plans, and George is conflicted when his mother and aunt have political views that go against the norm.

"Callahan Crossroads" deals with wartime themes, abuse and teenage mischief and prejudice-based vandalism. Pickett handles those situations in an age-appropriate manner, letting the reader know what is going on without detailed descriptions.

Wendy Jessen


"MY BROTHER'S SECRET," by Dan Smith, Scholastic, $16.99, 304 pages (f) (ages 8-12)

Living in Germany during World War II was a difficult time for many families with sons eligible for the Hitler Youth organization.

"My Brother's Secret," by Dan Smith, explores the struggle of a family during that war, when the division of opinions about Hitler, his followers and the war has the potential to tear the family apart.

Protagonist Karl Friedmann dedicates himself to Adolf Hitler and is an aspiring member of the Hitler Youth organization, though at only 11 he isn't old enough yet to join. His older brother Stefan, however, doesn't seem to have the same opinions.

Smith writes about the choices these young men make when disaster strikes their family. These choices could potentially put them and their entire family in danger, depending on which side they decide to support.

"My Brother's Secret" has mild profanity and generally described violence and killing in a war setting.

Tori Ackerman


"COURAGE AND DEFIANCE: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in World War II Denmark," by Deborah Hopkinson, Scholastic, $17.99, 300 pages (nf) (ages 10 and up)

"Courage and Defiance" is an exceptional collection of stories revealing the largely grassroots resistance efforts that took place in German-occupied Denmark during World War II. Despite writing the book for middle grade readers, author Deborah Hopkinson manages to elevate her style enough to make the book a natural read for adults.

Telling the story of an entire country over a six-year period of war is a difficult task, and organizing the enormous volume of material into a succinct and readable narrative poses its own challenges. Hopkinson, however, manages to do so with seeming ease, weaving dozens of key characters in and out of the nearly 300 pages in a manner that gives the audience a true sense of each individual and makes each story memorable.

Most importantly, Hopkinson raises awareness about World War II Denmark, which, in spite of being seriously affected and having thousands of its citizens displaced or killed, is studied less and is often forgotten as a war-ridden country.

For those looking to expand their knowledge of both influential individuals and Danish society through World War II, Courage and Defiance will inform and entertain.

Jennifer Ball


"PAPER HEARTS," by Meg Wiviott, Margaret K. McElderry Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 320 pages (ages 13 and up)

In Auschwitz-Birkenau, Zlatka and Fania adopt one another as sisters after losing their own. Set on survival and living in harsh conditions, they are part of an outstanding group of women who manage to celebrate life through small acts of kindness and sweet friendship.

In a colossal act of rebellion, Zlatka gambles her life by creating a trinket of hope, a heart-shaped birthday card, for Fanias 20th birthday. The tender poems, written on the actual artifact in Montreal, reflect a simple statement of hope, sincere wishes and an irreplaceable bond.

Meager memories and determination become a driving force for survival. Although the story is fictionalized, Wiviott thoughtfully weaves together true stories from survivors, showing the terrible reality of Auschwitz by using stunning forms of calligram and poetry.

This historical fiction takes harsh marks punctured into Jewish hands and tattoos them straight onto the readers heart. A story of hope, strengthened by the bonds of friendship, is ultimately inspiring. Some scenes have a few more descriptions of violence than others, although they are muddled by the poetic script. There is no foul language.

Wiviott graduated with an MFA in writing for children and young adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and grew up in New Jersey, where she currently resides with her husband.

Alex Johnson