Monday, December 17, 2018

MMGM- World War II Nonfiction

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Always in the Middle and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

During World War II, the US army was unfathomably enormous. During the years of the US involvement in the war, not only were there unprecendented numbers of people involved in the military, but the citizens of the US got involved in everything from victory gardens to bond sales to scrap collecting. Many of my readers are interested in the details of battles and fighting, but there was so much more that went on behind the scenes. Can you imagine producing all of the military uniforms, for example? I'd love to hear details about that! Even 77 years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, there is still an overwhelming interest in this historic event, and we are seeing books on facets of the war that were given very little attention.

38641687Farrell, Mary Cronk. Standing Up Against Hate: How Black Women in the Army Helped Change the Course of WWII
January 8th 2019 by Abrams Books for Young Readers
ARC provided by the publisher

Because of the enormous need for men to be at the front battle lines, or in one of the theaters of war waiting to go to the front lines, there were many opportunities for women to join the Women's Auxiliary Army Core. From office positions to transport to nursing and general support, thousands of young women took the opportunity to serve their country in these many roles. It was a chance for them to be involved while men they loved were off fighting, and it gave them an opportunity to be involved in careers that otherwise would have been off limits to women. Black women were recruited from colleges to go into the WAAC, but because of widespread cultural and systemic racism, the army strictly segregated black units for both men and women. Both Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary McLeod Bethune were instrumental in getting black women the right to fill positions other than general cleaning and cooking, the two occupations that the army wanted to force these women into. The 6888th division, headed by Charity Adams, was a unit devoted to sorting mail. After training, they were sent to Europe, where they often dealt with letters addressed to "Jimmy, Army" and had to sort through an enormous backlog of items.

This book is a very comfortable length (185 pages) with a format that allows for plentiful pictures, clippings, etc. There is a good mix of information about the state of civil rights at the time and the progression of the 6888th entry into active service in the European theater. There are secondary stories, such as a military band of all black women, that help readers to understand how difficult the positions of black women was at the time. The backgrounds of a few individuals are covered in more detail, which adds to the understanding of what the life of a WAAC would have been like.

Like Farrell's Pure Grit, this is a compulsively readable and informative volume on a little known aspect of World War II that is all the more timely given the interest in the treatment of black Americans, which has not changed as much since WWII as one would have hoped. Definitely purchasing and can see this as a starting point for many National History Day projects.

Edsel, Robert M. The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History: The Story of the Monuments Men
January 1st 2019 by Scholastic Nonfiction
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Since the Army knew a lot about how fighting was progressing across Europe, it makes a fair amount of sense that they had dedicated art historians who tried to locate and protect great works of art from the clutches of the Nazis. Hitler was a huge fan of art, and since he was involved in attacking various countries, it was part of his plan to appropriate the art for Germany, where he felt it would be better appreciated. Local art concerns were often too busy trying to stay alive to do more than hurriedly relocate art to manor houses outside of cities, which sometimes put the art behind enemy lines. The Monuments Men tried to save art from being destroyed, keep it physically safe, and keep it out of the hands of the Nazis.

It is amazing the number of people and the amount of resources that were put into the preservation of art. It's a good thing that this was done, since the art was very old and irreplaceable, but it also seems a bit silly when one thinks about 9,000 men dying on the beaches on D- Day and about 400,000 being killed or injured during the Battle of Normandy. There was a lot of strategy and espionage attached to the efforts to save art that will appeal to readers who enjoy this facet of WWII.

This is a rather long book (368 pages), with a lot of detailed information about a huge variety of people and places. Many of the individuals have extensive backstories presented in the book. There are plentiful pictures, although there could have been a little bit more of the art. I'm not sure that I have readers interested in the preservation of art, if I gauge this from the number of students who want to pick up the many art mysteries that are popular, and the level of detail in this book makes it more suitable for high school. It was definitely interesting and well-done, but not the best fit for my middle grade readers.


  1. these both look like fascinating books to read over a long, snowy holiday. I didn't know there was one on the monument men coming out - thanks for letting me know to look for it!

  2. I know a few kids who would love these books. I'll make a few subtle suggestions to get them at my library. Have a great holiday!

  3. I like the titles and your reviews of both historical novels. Fascinating reads. I read everything that I can on WWII. Thank you!

  4. Great choices. I would really like to read The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. I will be looking for that one. Thanks for the post. Happy holidays to you.