All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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Jewish Children's Experiences During World War II

These stories of separation, deprivation, defiance, and bravery help students to understand the horror and magnitude of the Holocaust. These books are an excellent complement to history units on World War II. This list is excerpted from Dr. Joan Kaywell's latest volume in her series Adolescent Literacy as a Complement to the Classics.

Behind the Secret Window:  A Memoir of a Hidden Childhood during World War Two

Behind the Secret Window: A Memoir of a Hidden Childhood during World War Two

Age Level: 9-12

The author was only six years old when the Nazis invaded Poland. She and her mother go into hiding with the help of some Gentiles, but their hiding place happens to be next door to the Gestapo headquarters. For the two years they are in hiding, Nelly records her fears, hopes, and dreams through art and in a journal.

We Were Not Like Other People

We Were Not Like Other People

Age Level: 12-14

A Russian Jewish teenager is separated from his parents at the onset of World War II. Exhausted and practically starved, he is found and nursed to health by a peasant woman and her daughters. His life is a test of survival as he wanders in search of his parents for six years. This novel is based on the author’s own experiences.

Four Perfect Pebbles

Four Perfect Pebbles

Age Level: 12-14

Five-year-old Marion Blumenthal and her family left Germany and went to Holland in an attempt to travel to America to escape the Nazis. Unfortunately, their ship was delayed three months and the Germans invaded Holland. The Blumenthals became a bargaining chip for the Nazis who wanted German POWs. They are deported to Bergen Belsen, where Marion, clinging to the hope that one day they would all be freed together, collects four pebbles from the camp to symbolize the members of her family. This riveting memoir is a story of determination and survival under the most dire of circumstances.

In My Enemy's House

In My Enemy's House

Age Level: 12-14

Blond-haired and blue-eyed Marisa loses her family at the hand of the Nazis when the Germans invade Poland. With the papers of a Christian Polish girl, she disguises her identity and goes to work as a servant for a Nazi family. As she spends more time and becomes closer with the family, she has to answer some tough questions about her basic beliefs of humanity.

No Pretty Pictures:  A Child of War

No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War

Age Level: 9-12

A winner of the Caldecott Award for Illustrators, Anita Lobel writes her memoir growing up in Krakow, Poland, during the Holocaust. She was only five when the Nazis invaded, and she is sent to live with their Catholic nanny in the country. Anita and her brother are eventually discovered and deported to a concentration camp where they live until the liberation. Art and books become her saving grace when she finally comes to America as a teenager.

Tug of War

Tug of War

Age Level: 12-14

Hugo and Astra, 14-year-old Latvian twins, are separated when the Russians invade their country in 1944. Hugo ends up in Hamburg, Germany, where a family takes care of him until the end of the war. Meanwhile, his family waits out the war in a refugee camp. When they are finally reunited, his family is disgruntled by Hugo's German girlfriend and places him in a choice situation.

Room in the Heart

Room in the Heart

Age Level: 9-12

Based on the true events of Germany's invasion of Denmark, this story is told primarily from the alternating perspectives of two young Danes. After learning the Germans have plans to capture all of the Jewish people in Denmark, Julie takes her family to Sweden by boat. Her friend and co-narrator, Niels, joins the resistance when he discovers the Nazi plot while his friend, Emil, is captivated by and admires the power of the Germans. A large cast of characters reveals how the Danes fought the Nazi occupation and saved almost all of Denmark’s Jews.

Memories of My Life in a Polish Village:  1930-1949

Memories of My Life in a Polish Village: 1930-1949

Age Level: 16-18

Toby Fluek was a small Jewish girl growing up in Czernica, Poland, when World War II started. She and her family moved to a Jewish ghetto and went into hiding several times to save their lives. By the war's end, only she and her mother had survived. Now an artist in New York City, the author presents her story through her paintings and their descriptions.

I Am David

I Am David

Age Level: 9-12

Twelve-year-old David has only known life in a concentration camp in Eastern Europe. When the opportunity to escape presents itself, David seizes it and then begins his journey to Denmark and freedom. Walden Media made a movie of this book, originally published in Denmark in 1963, by the same name in 2004. Since then, it has been mass marketed to educators. For teaching materials, visit their website.

We Are Witnesses

We Are Witnesses

Age Level: 14-16

Boas was born in the Westerbork Concentration Camp in Holland and writes this book from five teenage perspectives he found in reading their diaries: David Rubinowicz, Yitzhak Rudashevski, Moshe Flinker, Eva Heyman, and Anne Frank. As Boas points out, "alongside the other four diaries, Anne's looks different than when you read it by itself as the sole voice of the Holocaust."

London Calling

London Calling

Age Level: 9-12

Martin Conway hates his school and all of the snobbery there. When his grandmother dies and leaves him an old Forties radio, he mysteriously teleports back in time to the London Blitz and meets Jimmy who needs his help. Through a series of alternating story lines between the past and present, Martin helps expose various sins committed in both times.

Anne Frank and Me

Anne Frank and Me

Age Level: 14-16

The authors have adapted their 1998 play of the same title into this easy-to-read novel where Nicole Burns, a contemporary 10th-grade student who questions why they have to read The Diary of Anne Frank, is mysteriously transported in time into the person of Nicole Bernhardt, a 15-year-old Jewish girl living in occupied France. Nicole meets Anne Frank who helps her see the value of studying the Holocaust as she returns as Nicole Burns.

The Book Thief

The Book Thief

Age Level: 16-18

Living in Nazi Germany, young Liesel and her foster family choose to lie and steal to protect a Jewish refugee hiding in their basement. Narrated by Death, this is not your typical World War II story.

Milkweed

Milkweed

Age Level: 12-14

The boy doesn't know his family but survives in Warsaw, Poland in 1939, by stealing food and staying away from the Jackboots, the German soldiers. When he is befriended by Uri, a Jewish boy, he becomes known as Miska. Gradually, Miska and the other orphans discover the horrors that surround them in this naively told, riveting novel.