Veterans Day Reads

The United States has been observing Veterans Day since Germany signed an armistice with Allies during World War I on November 11, 1918. Now a federal holiday, and always observed on November 11, it is a day that we as civilians should honor and reflect upon the significance of our veterans. Schools are closed today, but most libraries are open, and many may have a display with books to encourage young readers to learn about, and honor veterans today. Here are some new, awesome nonfiction choices that will help middle grade readers strengthen their understanding of military life and experiences.

Smoky, The Dog That Saved My Life: The Bill Wynne Story by Nancy Roe Pimm
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World War II soldier Bill Wynne met Smoky while serving in New Guinea, where the dog, who was smaller than Wynne’s army boot, was found trying to scratch her way out of a foxhole. After he adopted her, she served as the squadron mascot and is credited as being the first therapy dog for the emotional support she provided the soldiers. When they weren’t fighting, Bill taught Smoky hundreds of tricks to entertain the troops. Smoky became a war hero herself at an airstrip in Luzon, the Philippines, where she helped save forty airplanes and hundreds of soldiers from imminent attack.

Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace by Ashley Bryan
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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.

Ski Soldier: A World War II Biography by Louise Borden
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Ski Soldier is a true-life adventure story for readers ages 10 to 14 by noted nonfiction writer Louise Borden. It tells the story of Pete Seibert, a ski soldier severely wounded in World War II who went on to found the Vail Ski Resort in Colorado.

Ever since he first strapped on his mother’s wooden skis when he was seven, Pete Seibert always loved to ski. At 18, Pete enlisted in the U.S. Army and joined the 10th Mountain Division, soldiers who fought on skis in World War II. In the mountains of Italy, Pete encountered the mental and physical horrors of war. When he was severely wounded and sent home to recover, Pete worried that he might never ski again. But with perseverance and the help of other 10th Mountain ski soldiers, he took to the slopes again and fulfilled his boyhood dream–founding the famous ski resort in Vail, Colorado.

Code Girls: The True Story of the American Women Who Secretly Broke Codes in World War II (Young Readers Edition) by Liza Munday
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More than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II, recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy. While their brothers and boyfriends took up arms, these women moved to the nation’s capital to learn the top secret art of code breaking.

Through their work, the “code girls” helped save countless lives and were vital in ending the war. But due to the top secret nature of their accomplishments, these women have never been able to talk about their story—until now.

Through dazzling research and countless interviews with the surviving code girls, Liza Mundy brings their story to life with zeal, grace, and passion. Abridged and adapted for a middle grade audience, Code Girls brings this important story to young readers for the first time, showcasing this vital tale of American courage, service, and scientific accomplishment.

Deadly Aim: The Civil War Story of Michigan’s Anishinaabe Sharpshooters by Sally M. Walker
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An engaging middle-grade nonfiction narrative of the American Indian soldiers who bravely fought in the Civil War from Sibert Award-winning author Sally M. Walker.

More than 20,000 American Indians served in the Civil War, yet their stories have often been left out of the history books.

In Deadly Aim, Sally M. Walker explores the extraordinary lives of Michigan’s Anishinaabe sharpshooters. These brave soldiers served with honor and heroism in the line of duty, despite enduring broken treaties, loss of tribal lands, and racism.

Filled with fascinating archival photographs, maps, and diagrams, this book offers gripping firsthand accounts from the frontlines. You’ll learn about Company K, the elite band of sharpshooters, and Daniel Mwakewenah, the chief who killed more than 32 rebels in a single battle despite being gravely wounded.

Walker celebrates the lives of the soldiers whose stories have been left in the margins of history for too long with extensive research and consultation with the Repatriation Department for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, the Eyaawing Museum and Cultural Center, and the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinaabe Culture and Lifeways.

Secret Soldiers: How the U.S. Twenty-Third Special Troops Fooled the Nazis by Paul B. Janeczko
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What do set design, sound effects, and showmanship have to do with winning World War II? Meet the Ghost Army that played a surprising role in helping to deceive — and defeat — the Nazis.

In his third book about deception during war, Paul B. Janeczko focuses his lens on World War II and the operations carried out by the Twenty-Third Headquarters Special Troops, aka the Ghost Army. This remarkable unit included actors, camouflage experts, sound engineers, painters, and set designers who used their skills to secretly and systematically replace fighting units — fooling the Nazi army into believing what their eyes and ears told them, even though the sights and sounds of tanks and war machines and troops were entirely fabricated. Follow the Twenty-Third into Europe as they play a dangerous game of enticing the German army into making battlefield mistakes by using sonic deceptions, inflatable tanks, pyrotechnics, and camouflage in more than twenty operations. From the Normandy invasion to the crossing of the Rhine River, the men of the Ghost Army — several of whom went on to become famous artists and designers after the war — played an improbable role in the Allied victory.

Julie K. Rubini
Julie K. Rubini is the author of the upcoming MG biography, Eye to Eye: Sports Journalist Christine Brennan. She has also written Virginia Hamilton: America's Storyteller, which is included in the Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books, 2018. Her other works include Missing Millie Benson: The Secret Case of the Nancy Drew Ghostwriter and Hidden Ohio. She is also the Founder of Claire's Day, Ohio's largest children's book festival.
www.julierubini.com and www.clairesday.org
2 Comments
  1. Great list. Secret Soldiers looks particularly good to me. Thanks for the post.

  2. Thanks for honoring our soldiers and giving our books a shout-out! Happy Veterans Day. I have the honor of taking Bill Wynne to lunch today!

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