The best books on war through the eyes of children

Lois Lowry Author Of On the Horizon
By Lois Lowry

Who am I?

I’d like to say I have no expertise in this topic. And yet…don’t we all?  We’ve all lived through it. I was born in 1937—in Honolulu, the daughter of a US Army officer. WW II was a pervasive part of my childhood, as my father spent time in the Pacific and then after the war ended, we lived in Occupied Japan for some years.  But war had always been a part of my family’s history, as is true for so many people. My great grandfather left a written account of his capture and imprisonment during the Civil War.  And much more recently, my own son, an Air Force pilot, died in the cockpit of a F-15.  Ironically, he had married a German wife, and he is buried in her village cemetery near her grandfather, who served on the Russian front years earlier.  His child, my granddaughter, puts flowers on both of those graves. All of these pieces of my own history combine, I think, to create this passion I have for the telling and retelling of stories that can make us more aware of the futility of war.


I wrote...

On the Horizon

By Lois Lowry, Kenard Pak,

Book cover of On the Horizon

What is my book about?

Lois Lowry looks back at history through a personal lens as she draws from her own memories as a child in Hawaii and Japan, as well as from historical research, in this stunning work in verse for young readers.

On the Horizon tells the story of people whose lives were lost or forever altered by the twin tragedies of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. Based on the lives of soldiers at Pearl Harbor and civilians in Hiroshima, On the Horizon contemplates humanity and war through verse that sings with pain, truth, and the importance of bridging cultural divides. This masterful work emphasizes empathy and understanding in search of commonality and friendship, vital lessons for students as well as citizens of today's world. Kenard Pak's stunning illustrations depict real-life people, places, and events, making for an incredibly vivid return to our collective past.

The books I picked & why

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Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

By Anne Frank, B.M. Mooyaart,

Book cover of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Why this book?

No book breaks your heart as this classic diary does. The intimacy and intelligence with which this doomed teenager reveals her day-to-day life and her hopes for the future makes the reader so aware of the impending tragedy and the magnitude of the losses of the Holocaust.


All the Light We Cannot See

By Anthony Doerr,

Book cover of All the Light We Cannot See

Why this book?

The interweaving of the lives of a young blind girl in Paris and an orphaned German boy—so beautifully told by the author—is illuminating, as the title implies. As readers we see so much, learn so much, care so much about how lives connect.


No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War

By Anita Lobel,

Book cover of No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War

Why this book?

Five years old when the Nazis invaded her homeland of Poland, Anita Lobel spent the war years in hiding. Her memoir is intimate and suspenseful and even occasionally funny.  Here’s a glimpse… through the eyes of a real child…of what survival means, and of those who helped her achieve it.


Pink and Say

By Patricia Polacco,

Book cover of Pink and Say

Why this book?

I love this book, which combines a true story from the Civil War with gorgeous illustrations by the amazingly gifted author.  Pink, who is white, and Say, who is Black, are two young Union soldiers, little more than boys…as my own great grandfather once was.  Their survival depends upon their relationship, and the story, as retold by Polacco, reminds us—as all these books do—of our interdependence.


Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

By Eleanor Coerr, Ronald Himler,

Book cover of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

Why this book?

Sadako Sasaki was a real child, one who survived the bombing of Hiroshima but who died from its aftereffects a number of years later. Hospitalized and terminally ill, she folded origami cranes, hoping magically, and fruitlessly, that they would bring her luck and save her life. A statue of Sadako stands outside of the Peace Museum in Hiroshima; I visited there a few years ago and was reminded again of the tragedy of war.


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