The best books about young characters with courage, resilience, and resistance in WWII

Who am I?

I am not Norwegian, or even Scandinavian. My interest in history came from my dad being a veteran after serving in Europe in WWII, even though he talked about it very little. I’ve always loved to read, write, and think, so I especially loved to read WWII stories and share them. After I met new friends on a trip to Norway, people who had lived through the five-year German occupation, I felt compelled to write about their experiences. Their stories, and ones like Snow Treasure, earned my deep respect, compelling me to research, and eventually to write, a novel that might capture the spirit and stories I had heard and loved.


I wrote...

Odin's Promise: A Novel of Norway

By Sandy Brehl,

Book cover of Odin's Promise: A Novel of Norway

What is my book about?

When Hitler’s troops invade Norway in April 1940, eleven-year-old Mari is forced to grow beyond her “baby girl” nickname to deal with harsh new realities in their small mountainside village. She relies on her family for strength and confides in Odin, her devoted Norwegian elkhound. Mari soon learns that her family, her neighbors, and even classmates may be involved in a local resistance movement. The more she observes, the more determined she becomes to take part in defying the propaganda and power of the German invaders who claim to be protectors and “Viking brothers.” Both young and old find ways to oppose the occupying forces, retain their national identity, and show their loyalty to their native land.

The books I picked & why

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Snow Treasure

By Marie McSwigan,

Book cover of Snow Treasure

Why this book?

If you’ve read this, you’ll nod your head in agreement. If not, what are you waiting for? This novel was first published in 1942 and has remained in print ever since. Germany invaded neutral Norway on April 9, 1940, with massive, overwhelming forces, but was resisted from the start. I often read Snow Treasure aloud to students, hanging on every page-turn just as my students do. I always make it clear that this is a fictionalized account of the daring (and true) escape of Norway’s king and cabinet, along with their national treasure, which allowed them to continue the fight from England. When I speak about my own books, I am often asked about Snow Treasure—by adults! It’s the unforgettable book of their youth that they still believe to be entirely true. That’s a testament to terrific writing and reading!


Number the Stars

By Lois Lowry,

Book cover of Number the Stars

Why this book?

I was already a fan of author Lois Lowry when Number the Stars was released. My first reading led to years of read-aloud sessions with my students. Compelling writing and vivid scenes allowed us to experience the love and fears of ten-year-old Annemarie in Denmark in WWII. Tall boots and guns of the German occupiers signaled danger, of course, but why should her best friend’s family be under even greater threats, just because they are Jewish? The innocent perspective and confusion of a child feel immediate and intense. Annemarie’s choices, courage, and actions provide an age-appropriate vicarious experience with hatred and war. Threads of deep research reveal clever and coordinated resistance as they are woven throughout a heart-pounding story that spans a few hours… and a lifetime.


Twenty and Ten

By Claire Huchet Bishop, Janet Joly,

Book cover of Twenty and Ten

Why this book?

Reading aloud to students is my ultimate commendation for the best books, with a bonus for books that are short and powerful. Twenty and Ten is based on actual events in a French boarding school during World War II. When ten desperate Jewish children needed a sanctuary to survive, to avoid being sent to concentration camps, the nuns wisely discussed this with the twenty resident children. Those children would need to keep their life-or-death secret. Limited food and resources, barely enough for the twenty, would need to stretch to keep ten more alive, perhaps for years. If discovered, all might be taken, or killed. “What do you think they will do?” and “What would you do?” and “Why?” are among my favorite questions when sharing this book. Amazing conversations follow, for children and adults. Then eager hands reach for copies to read again.


The Klipfish Code

By Mary Casanova,

Book cover of The Klipfish Code

Why this book?

A more recently released historical fiction account of a young girl’s loyalty and daring decisions on a North Sea island off the coast of Norway is The Klipfish Code. Published two years before my own book, I had not read it until a reviewer compared my debut book to this suspenseful story. I read it immediately, humbled by the comparison. Twelve-year-old Marit is living with her grandpa, who she resents for not actively protesting the German occupiers of their island. She’s outspoken, angry, and eager to support the resistance, despite his cautions and concerns. I was intrigued by this transition period in German policy. They traded propaganda and persuasion for coercion, including arresting one in ten teachers across the country, sending them to labor camps to make them agree to teach Nazi lies within the classroom. The terror of this little-known action compounds Marit’s struggle to decipher a code, decide who to trust, and use her sea skills to save lives. 


Shadow on the Mountain

By Margi Preus,

Book cover of Shadow on the Mountain

Why this book?

This novel (historical fiction but inspired by real people and events) was released just a month before my novel. I read it immediately and was enthralled by the intensity and density of issues. Two best friends, Norwegian teen boys, choose opposite paths after the Nazi invasion of their homeland. One reveled in the potential glory and power of joining a German Youth club while the other pursued resistance and resilience in protesting the propaganda and power of the military occupation. The escalation of emotions and dangers, actual conflicts, high-stakes tension, and eventual climactic decisions are riveting. This has everything: emotional depth, action, suspicion, suspense, and complex characters in challenging situations. Add the Author Note with details about the truth behind the tale and you’ve got a guaranteed winner of a book.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the German occupation of Europe, World War 2, and Norway?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the German occupation of Europe, World War 2, and Norway.

The German Occupation Of Europe Explore 43 books about the German occupation of Europe
World War 2 Explore 975 books about World War 2
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