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Books relating to the Second World War for DS aged 8

(26 Posts)
Debeez Fri 17-Aug-12 22:36:53

Ds read Boy in the Striped Pyjamas a few years ago. Had some questions which I answered as honestly as I could in a way I felt suitable for a 6 year old.

I do a fortnightly trawl around charity shops for books for him. Two turned up today amongst others. Hitler's Canary and Henderson's Boys - The Escape. Both related to the Second World War.

I plan on reading them before handing them over but wanted to know if anyone here had read them or given them to their DC of a similar age. What you thought of the books and what questions arose as a result. I usually think if you're old enough to ask you're old enough to know, but I don't think that applies when presenting DS with what potentially could be upsetting concepts such as Holocaust and persecution in detail.


Sparrows12 Sat 10-Nov-12 21:28:20

The Narnia books of course!

Sparrows12 Sat 10-Nov-12 21:17:57

I suppose he is too young for Maurice gleitzman? Made my daughter cry.

Dolphin Crossing was a nice book - about the Dunkirk landings - two boys who take their little boat and go and join in. Exciting and well paced I seem to remember.

My daughter enjoyed hitler's canary at about aged 8.

acebaby Wed 03-Oct-12 21:20:55

Personally, I have decided that I would like my DCs' first encounter with the horrors of the Holocaust to be the Diary of Anne Frank, which will give them a perspective its true impact on real people (I will wait until they are about 10 for this).

Then when they read about what happened, the picture of the Frank family will stay with them - and prevent them from being in any way de-sensitised. This is important to me because of our family heritage.

Tiggles Tue 25-Sep-12 21:37:38

I have been reading the Machine Gunners to DS1 (10) and 2 (5). DS1 enjoyed it so much he sat down and finished the book the other evening, and is now listening in for a second go. The only slightly 'concerning' part of the book which I skipped over when reading out loud was a single line when one of the parents said that the Germans invading would rape their children, as that was something I didn't really want to get into discussing with DS2. I have to admit, even I am enjoying the story!

Sickandsad Tue 25-Sep-12 12:22:48

An also looking for WW2 related novels for DD(9) as she has enjoyed most of those mentioned so far, especially the Silver Sword and has just finished Goodnight Mister Tom.

DH has suggested 'Johnny and the Bomb' by Terry Pratchett. I haven't read this - does anyone know if it's suitable?

sashh Wed 29-Aug-12 05:57:05

I was going to mention 'when hitler stole pink rabbit' and the sequels. As a child I also read the silver sword, not sure how old I was but it was primary school. What about 'Carrie's war'?

DeWe Thu 23-Aug-12 18:27:44

My 5yo ds has been majorly into WWII and particularly the Battle of Britain for the last 18 months or so.

He loved When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, and extracts of the 2nd book (Bombs over Aunt Dainty?). I only gave him extracts as some of it is quite dark.
He's also enjoyed War Horse (book not film), Goodnight Mr Tom (film), there's a My Story Battle of Britain he's currently reading, and the library has a set entitled "War in the air" "War at home" and a couple of others in similar vein which are true-ish stories. Probably a bit simple for your ds though.

He's also gone through most of the Usborne sets on WWII and the Horrible Histories on the subject. Also there is a simplified (and slightly nice-ified) version of Anne Frank's diary done as an information book. Hana's Suitcase is a lovely account of a group of school children in (I think) China trying to trace the Jewish child owner of a suitcase. It turns out she died in a CC, but her brother is alive. Bedknobs and broomsticks (film) went down well too.

The library has a lot of fact/fact based books in their history section, so he rotates round those.

If you're near, the war tunnels under Dover Castle are worth visiting, he loved them.

Henderson Boys are fantastic read-according to my 11yo dd. I don't think they're really suitable for an age 8yo though. They're related to the Cherub books (prequels) and there's a certain amount of drinking/violence and indications of sex, so I wouldn't try that for him.
Not sure about Hitler's canary. If I remember rightly it is much "cleaner" than HB/Cherub series. DD1 enjoyed it, though not as much. I think she found it a little more complicated to understand. I don't think an 8yo would enjoy it. If I remember rightly, the story hinges round the idea of Hitler having a love child, the British want to get the child as a hostage and use 2 children to do this. If I'm remembering rightly the child is shot by the Nazis at the end as they'd rather kill the child than run the risk of them being used as a hostage.

I don't think I'd say either was suitable for an 8yo, and I'm generally relaxed on what mine read. I don't think I'd give them for younger than 10yo.

Debeez Tue 21-Aug-12 22:06:44

Agreed mercibucket, hence my vetting it all. I wouldn't say I was traumatised by Goodnight Mr Tom but I know my DS and I don't think he's ready for it. We plan on reading the books with him, using online resources and the local library and adding fact to the fiction. He would love the elevator test. I feel a trip to our local shopping centre coming on!

I feel the literature we've given him so far introduces the subject and the serious stuff with characters he can identify with which gives more depth to the subject at hand.

I really want to stress how carefully we are vetting his reading material, we want to answer his questions, but we also want to protect him from that which he isn't ready and we would always err on the side of caution.

DilysPrice Tue 21-Aug-12 21:56:47

I would also recommend "When The Siren Wailed" for that age group. I think it strikes a good balance between treating the Blitz seriously but without traumatising the younger reader.

mercibucket Tue 21-Aug-12 21:50:24

I was talking about this with my sister and we were both remembering books that had traumatised us as children and I'm afraid we both thought you should be quite careful with literature, more so than fact. So as the thread has popped up again, how about trying more fact than fiction? Weirdly I always at that age found it easier to deal with, probably as it is less personalised and emotive. Or even, if he's wondering why this could happen, looking at some basic psychology with him. There's some interesting youtube videos about the ways people behave in groups - you could start with the elevator test - fun to do when out too as an experiment

mummmsy Tue 21-Aug-12 21:40:37

the file on fraulein berg by joan lingard?

Bluestocking Tue 21-Aug-12 21:35:17

adoptmama, I'm interested to hear that you don't like TBITSP. I skim-read it a while ago to see if it was a possible future read for my son and found it extremely sentimental and manipulative, as well as feeling a bit uncomfortable about what you've identified as the "sympathetic" portrayal of Hess.
OP, I really like Carrie's War by Nina Bawden. Am drawing a bit of a blank on other age-appropriate reading material - you could try some children's biographies of significant figures from that era like Winston Churchill?

Debeez Tue 21-Aug-12 21:13:31

Well I vetted Hitler's Canary, and rather enjoyed it myself. Fan of Sandi Toksvig's comedy anyway but her writing is fantastic. Dealt with a lot of issues very sensitively.

Would recommend to other children of the same age if you think they're ready. It's very tastefully done but I did shed a tear at the end.

(On a side note this book also introduces homophobia in an extremely subtle manner from both the Nazis and a Danish gentleman struggling against the Nazis, which was interesting in a children's book as it deviated from the clear cut good guy and bad guy thing.)

The Henderson boys is starting off to be a lot more gritty. Awful scene includes the children witnessing their father's death, graphic rather than implied. I found it hard going but I am aware that this may be linked to seeing my Father die recently rather than being a badly handled or over graphic scene. Will probably set this one aside for now and read again in a year or so and attempt to get an unbiased view of suitability.

iseenodust Mon 20-Aug-12 12:58:04

DS has just been given "woeful ww2" which is part of the horrible histories series if you want non-fiction. It's one of the history topics to come in yr4.

wearymum200 Sun 19-Aug-12 00:54:44

I have a ds(6) who is v interested in WW2 and have been acquiring (and vetting) books for him. I reread Mr Tom, which he could read, but decided there is no way he is emotionally ready for subject matter (boy in it ends up incarcerated in cupboard with dead baby sister). He enjoyed War Boy and also the My Story called Battle of Britain.
We tried Robert Westall's Blitz, but it wasn't a hit. I reread Machine Gunners and decided ds is still a bit young (but note that your ds is significantly older than mine).
There is a Canadian series called War Guests about overseas evacuees. Noel Streatfield's "When the siren wailed" is a much gentler story about evacuees than Mr Tom.
Also ,like all above, "Silver Sword" and "Pink Rabbit" were great favourites of mine when a child (but again beware the sequels to Pink rabbit, they also deal with the mother's descent into mental illness and are hard). Carrie's war was another I read about the same age.

FallenCaryatid Sat 18-Aug-12 14:02:28

Hitler's canary is good, Goodnight Mr Tom is quite strong when it comes to dealing with child abuse and the mentally ill mother and I'd be careful with that one.

Best thing to do is read any books before you give them to him, only you will know if he can handle the themes.

Debeez Sat 18-Aug-12 12:41:04

I respect your opinion adoptmama, no need for the soap box joke, you have a valid point and shouldn't feel soap box like for sharing it.

Allowing my son to read The Boy in the Striped Pyjarmas wasn't something I took lightly. I read the book myself first. It's not something I'd recommend to a child of that age group without knowing them first as technically I agree that it is not suitable for this age group. My decision was based on my son overall rather than just his age IYSWIM?

Good timing that cairn mentioned "Goodnight, Mr Tom" in the next post. I remember reading this at a young age, my mother hadn't read it and she was a little shocked at the content when made aware. I don't believe I suffered any harm from reading it and if anything I brought up subjects that are quite often not talked about and gave an awareness through a child's eyes.

I am keen to allow my son to learn more about a subject that has interested* him through children's literature as I think the book offers an insight in a way that is difficult for a parent to explain and it is a subject that is often closed to smaller children.

*when I say interested I would like to point out I mean in a "What happened" "Why did that happen?", "Why did no one stop them?" way.

I'm not sure if I'm explaining myself well here, I like this book for primary as the story gives details seen through the eyes of a child and introduces ideas gently (sometimes using too much artistic licence, agreed) that allowed my son to ask questions and for me to choose how much detail to give based on his questions. He grasped some subtexts, not others, that gave me my cue for how much he was ready to know, so the complexity of the story is not always a negative IMHO.

I am surprised to find the book is actually a comprehensive level text. I agree that it should not be the first point of reference when introducing older children to the holocaust. Most have the maturity and capacity to be told the facts relating to the holocaust and if they're not already aware of the events a factual, history based rather than literature centered introduction seems the most obvious.

I shall certainly have a look at the memorial website and the education section so thank you for the recommendation. I'm not a teacher, so just blundering on as best I can taking my cues from him. Your input is appreciated.

cairnterrier Sat 18-Aug-12 11:14:56

Mister Tom to think about what life was like for those at home as well. Does also deal with child abuse/neglect and the death of a child as well so you might want to read it first?

adoptmama Sat 18-Aug-12 11:10:15

I know this is probably not going to be the most popular of opinions, but I would really question the appropriateness of The Boy In the Striped Pyjamas for a 6 or 8 year old. Yes there are aspects of the book which are cleverly written - such as the childish misunderstanding/mispronunciation of the name Auschwitz. But in terms of content much of what is reasonably good about the book will be lost on a reader of this age, such as understanding the father figure is Rudolf Hoess. Whilst a younger reader can of course have the mechanical reading skills to get through the book and have some kind of understanding, it is not really suitable for his age group.

I actually really dislike the book and do not recommend it to my students - and have also argued with our English department about its use as they do not attempt to point out the inaccuracies in it. I have never read a work of fiction which, I think, so misrepresents the Holocaust. There are many reasons to dislike the book. It is grossly inaccurate in its portrayal of Auschwitz - as a survivor who lost many of his family to the gas chambers said to me "Am I stupid? If a child could walk through the fence and leave do you not think I would have gone?" The disturbingly sympathetic portrayal of Hoess as a reluctant commander is perhaps the worst thing about the book. I really hate the fact it is used as literature in so many secondary schools and is, for many children, their first introduction to the Holocaust. It trivialises Auschwitz, what happened their and the participation of committed Nazis such as Hoess

*dismounts from soap box*

I do understand that you wish to provide your son with books that spark his interest or introduce him to more serious topics. Try the Holocaust Memorial Day website Under education they have reviews of books, including those suitable for younger readers (Pyjamas is generally considered a secondary book because an understanding of the subtexts is so important). Many schools participate in HMD each year with assemblies etc and the site provides lots of educational resources, films etc. Perhaps your son could introduce his school to this if they do not participate.

Debeez Fri 17-Aug-12 23:04:24

Thank you AuntySib, definitely need to get a new Amazon order on!

Debeez Fri 17-Aug-12 23:03:21

I read When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit at 7 so I'll defiantly be picking up a copy of that and thank you for recommending.

The Canary and Henderson's Boys the reviews are quite good across the board if not detailed about content (Hence my reading and request for feedback).

Seeing mixed review on Blitz especially towards the under tens, reviews appear quite negative. Obviously every under 10 is different, understand it's 4 short stories. Do you remember how old you were when you read it YouBroker?

AuntySib Fri 17-Aug-12 22:59:33

Just read Ian Serailliers " Silver Sword" -if your son could read and understand Boy in Striped PJs, he'd be able to read that - 3 children fending for themselves in Warsaw ghetto and then making their way to Switzerland to find family. Excellent book, bonus of happy ending - and despite awful circumstances demonstrates kindness of strangers.

YouBrokeMySmoulder Fri 17-Aug-12 22:51:34

What age is Blitz by Robert Westall aimed at? I remember that being good.

Debeez Fri 17-Aug-12 22:50:12

Thanks Hab, I read that as a child, completely forgot until you mentioned it.

habbibu Fri 17-Aug-12 22:41:57

Haven't read those, but try When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr - true story of her escape from Nazi Germany with her family aged about 8. Really good book, and pitched just right for that age, I think.

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