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Top 10: Veterans Day

Updated: Nov 11, 2019

Bumping the Tuesday Top 10 up a couple of days this week in order to honor our Veterans by highlighting some of my favorite YA (and adult!) books featuring soldiers.

I thought about including only the newest books, but there are about 5 or 6 that I ALWAYS recommend, so I just couldn't exclude them.

And spoiler alert, I tried to be clever and narrow it down to 11, but that was too difficult.

Listed in no particular order: CENTER: Pure Grit by Mary Cronk Farrell (grades 6-adult). No kidding, this is one of my all-time favorite nonfiction titles, and chronicles the experiences of American nurses serving in the Philippines during WWII survived the experience and prison camp. OUTSTANDING! Farrell also has a new book out now called Standing Up Against Hate, which details the experiences of Black women serving in WWII. You should check that one out also.

TOP ROW: Infinite Hope by Ashley Bryan (grades 6- adult). Part memoir, part social history, part world history, artist and author Bryan recounts his service as a Black soldier in the segregated army of WWII, and includes sketches and paintings in which he recorded his experiences. There are many uses for this one in the classroom as well.

Allies by Alan Gratz (grades 6-10+). Gratz weaves an array of voices and stories into this tale of teamwork in the face of tyranny on one day that changed the world... D-Day. Gratz is a master of historical fiction!

If You're Reading This by Trent Reedy. (grades 7-12). One of those books that I'm always recommending, this is the story of a young man reconnecting with the father he lost in Afghanistan.

The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt (grades 8-adult). I recommend this one to teens and adults alike. It's one of those books that has always stuck with me. Although they have never gotten along well, seventeen-year-old Levi follows his older brother Boaz, an ex-Marine, on a walking trip from Boston to Washington, D.C. in hopes of learning why Boaz is completely withdrawn. A must-read!

MIDDLE ROWS: No Better Friend by Robert Weintraub (grades 6-adult... young adult and adult versions of this book). Everyone loves a good "hero dog" story and this one has something for EVERYONE. Still cannot believe it hasn't been made into a movie.

Captured by Alvin Townley (grades 6-adult). Naval aviator Jeremiah Denton was captured in North Vietnam in 1965. As a POW, Jerry Denton led a group of fellow American prisoners in withstanding gruesome conditions behind enemy lines. He spent 7 1/2 years as a POW in North Vietnam before returning home. Though published for teens, this appeals to adult readers also. For fans of Unbroken.

American Road Trip by Patrick Flores-Scott (grades 9-12). Three siblings on a road trip in search of healing. The Avila siblings take a road trip to address oldest brother Manny's PTSD following his tour in Iraq, and to help Teodoro change his life and win the heart of the girl he loves. (Warning: discussion of suicide).

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (grades 8-12). Hayley Kincaid and her father move back to their hometown to try a 'normal' life, but the horrors he saw in the war threaten to destroy their lives. I know that Anderson is best known for other books, and I will say that her new memoir Shout is one of the most amazing books I've read recently, but this book has always been my favorite of hers.

BOTTOM ROW: Boots on the Ground by Elizabeth Partridge (grades 7-12). An exploration of the Vietnam War from many different perspectives including an American soldiers, a nurse, and a Vietnamese refugee. Many photographs and letters included also.

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith (grades 6-9). During World War II, a light-skinned African American girl "passes" for white in order to join the Women Airforce Service Pilots. Also, one of the few war stories for teens where the woman isn't a nurse or a spy. I realize that's the reality of war, especially historically, but it still feels odd when compiling a list like this. (Side note, there are many great books about women pilots, military or otherwise, that have been published recently).

Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya (grades 5-8). When Dad returns from deployment, Emilia expects that her life will get back to normal. Instead, it unravels. This is a must read for middle school!

Price of Duty by Todd Strasser (grades 7 and up). Explores the struggles of war, the price paid by those who fight in them, and what it really means to be a hero. A quick read that will give you much to discuss.

Other titles that I enjoy but were left off the graphic as I tried to highlight some of the newer titles:

Courage Has No Color by Tanya Lee Stone. This is the true account of the 555th airborne division, or the Triple Nickles as they were known. Excellent narrative non-fiction! (Grades 5-10).

Torn by David Massey. It is not often that stories of soldiers are the stories of women soldiers (who aren't spies). This is a book about a young woman, serving as a medic in present-day Afghanistan. This has all the details of fighting that you might want, action, mystery, and a hint of romance if you're looking for it. (Grades 8 & up). Five 4ths of July by Pat Hughes and Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson are two terrific novels about two young men from completely different circumstances fighting during the Revolutionary War. (Grades 5-8).

Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac. Although the mission school bans all that is Navajo, Ned secretly clings to his native language and culture. Proudly joining the U.S. Marines in 1943, he becomes a top-secret Navajo Code Talker. During bloody battles for Japanese islands, Ned and his brave band of code-talking brothers save thousands of lives using Navajo encryption the enemy never cracks. (Pair this with the non-fiction title Navajo Code Talkers by Nathan Aaseng). (Grades 6-10 for both titles).

Flags of our Fathers by James Bradley. The story behind the men in the iconic photograph of the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima during WWII. (This title for adults also has a young reader's edition).

Don't forget these three by Walter Dean Myers, highlighted in a separate post here.

Although not published for teens, I couldn't end this post without mentioning one of my all-time favorite soldier stories. Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer. (Though, interested teens could read it, and I often recommended it to my 8th and 9th graders). This biography of Pat Tillman is a favorite for several reasons. One, it's Krakauer, so it's well-written and completely engaging. Two, it tells not only Tillman's story, but the history of Afghanistan and the region which I think is important for everyone to understand. Is there bias in Krakauer's narrative? Sure, but the story is still one that should be read. And three, it's about a true American hero.

Here rests

In honored glory

An American soldier

Known but to God


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