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World War II and Young Adult Literature

These reading lists can help middle and high school students develop background knowledge on World War II and the Holocaust. 

Joan F. Kaywell, PhD, developed these reading lists to help middle and high school students develop background knowledge on World War II and the Holocaust. Each of the seven lists reflects a particular aspect of the war. The titles included in these lists span genres — memoir, biography, historical fiction, graphic novel — and vary in length and complexity. Several titles on each list are suitable for struggling readers.

As a complement to textbook reading about World War II, Dr. Kaywell recommends allowing students to choose a book from among the lists to read and then present to their classmates.

Read Joan Kaywell’s book chapter, Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl: World War II and Young Adult Literature, for more activities and ideas to extend learning through the use of integrating YA literature in a study unit on World War II. This chapter is excerpted from the latest volume of the series Adolescent Literature as a Complement to the Classics .


WWII-related booklists

Deepen students' learning about WWII through use of dioramas, memorabilia bags, timelines, maps, classroom museums, and more. These extension activities were developed by Dr. Joan F. Kaywell and included in her book Adolescent Literature as a Complement to the Classics.


About the Joan F. Kayhell

Dr. Kaywell is Professor of English Education at the University of South Florida where she has won several teaching awards. She is passionate about assisting preservice and practicing teachers in improving literacy. She is Past President of NCTE’s Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) and serves as its Membership Secretary; she is twice a Past-President of FCTE and remains on its Board of Directors.

Kaywell reviews young adult novels for The ALAN ReviewThe Journal of Adult and Adolescent Literacy and Signal. She has edited five volumes of Adolescent Literature as a Complement to the Classics and six volumes of Using Literature to Help Troubled Teenagers Cope with [Various] Issues. She is the author of Adolescents At Risk: A Guide to Fiction and Nonfiction for Young Adults, Parents, and Professionals and has edited one young adult bookDear Author: Letters of Hope  (Philomel).