WORLD WAR II BOOKS FOR KIDS Series
HEROES OF WORLD WAR II:
50 Inspiring Stories of Bravery
by Kelly Milner Halls
Paperback, August 10, 2021
Earlier this year I read and reviewed two related titles from this series, both by Kelly Milner Halls. Click the titles VOICES OF ORDINARY HEROES and VOICES OF YOUNG HEROES to read my praise of both additions to the HISTORY SPEAKS series.
Now some of those same historic and heroic characters have been joined by entirely new names in this grouping of a full-color, oversized paperback collection that has similar structural assets and compelling narration in readily consumable passages.
The table of contents makes this a helpful research tool, and the consistent pattern of each featured hero’s section is an open invitation to readers to turn the page and read just one more. And then one more.
Four-page layouts begin with a color, comic book-style portrait illustration, followed by two pages of text, with wide spacing, wide-borders, and easy-to-read font. The fourth page of the layout displays a showcase quotation in the hero’s own words, followed by a short “Explore More” recommendation of an original source, a link to related museums or websites, or other novel or nonfiction titles portraying similar heroes. This bite-sized and easy-on-the-eyes approach makes substantial content both appealing and digestible for the young reader target audience, but also makes this an ideal offering for older readers with interest in WWII who will appreciate the reader-friendly and well-researched format of this collection of profiles.
What I particularly appreciated, among many things, is the diversity of individuals featured, ranging in ethnicity, nationality, geographic arena of action, age, and range of “heroism” portrayed. In some cases, those heroic choices were known to very few, or even remained hidden from public knowledge for decades, like Mariya Borisovna Bruskina. Others, like Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel, have been the subjects of books, documentaries, and movies. Even so, their larger-than-life stature on the stage of WWII resistance and heroism can overshadow the intimate look at their lives that these summary profiles provide.
Some may surprise you with their inclusion, like Mae Krier, a “Rosie” working on the homefront, or Wojtek, the bear, who was fostered, adopted, and then “enlisted” in an Italian military group to bolster the spirits of young men facing likely death or disaster. In every case, Halls makes a clear case for the ways in which heroism can be found in each of them. Without didactic suggestion, their lives and choices remind readers that the potential for heroism lies in each of us.
The selected quotations would make a wonderful weekly calendar turn, with nearly enough for a full year: For example:
“I WILL ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY FOR EVERYTHING I AM GOING TO DO. I AM CONSOLED BY MY STRONG FAITH THAT GOOD DEEDS CAN NEVR BE WRONG.”
Those words to live by are the selected quotation by Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz. Not sure who that is? Get the book and find out! While you’re at it, suggest it to your library and recommend it to teachers you know. Then add it to your shopping list for gifting to middle-grade readers, and maybe even some older folks you know to have an interest in World War II.