Best children's books about WWI
Our pick of powerful, informative and evocative novels, anthologies and non-fiction books will help primary-school children understand the facts about the Great War, as well as the everyday lives of the people who lived through it in the trenches and on the Home Front.
A soldier's friend by Megan Rix(Puffin, £5.99)
During WWI cats were used by the British army as gas detectors and ratters in the trenches, and dogs became messenger dogs and mascots. The story of Mouser and Sammy in Flanders is based on true stories of animal heroes in war-time and perfect reading for KS2 kids.
Archie's War by Marcia Williams(Walker, £5.99)
The First World War as seen by ten-year-old Archie, who fills a scrapbook with anecdotes about life in London's East End, newspaper clippings, letters from his dad and uncle who are fighting in France, and his own war-inspired comic strips.
Only remembered Edited by Michael Morpurgo(Random House, £14.99)
An anthology of poems, short stores, letters, newspaper articles, scripts, photographs and paintings, introduced by leading writers and public figures and offering a heart-breaking picture of the events of 1914 to 1918.
Where the poppies now grow by Hilary Robinson & Martin Impey(Strauss House, £6.99)
A poem about childhood friendship which is tested by, but survives, the tragedy of war. Written as a tribute to the war poets of WWI, this is relevant and poignant reading for children of primary-school age. A companion book about one of the friends, Lily, who joins the war effort as a nurse, has also been published: Peace Lily.
A graphic novel-style account of the First World War from the perspective of an unknown soldier: long journeys, the search for food, the sound of gunfire and a narrow escape. Very evocative, it makes life in the trenches seem all too real and close to us.
The Foreshadowing by Marcus Sedgwick(Orion, £6.99)
Sasha Fox can see the future, the battlefields of the Somme and what will happen to her beloved brothers, gone to war in 1915. Trapped in Brighton, believed by no-one, Sasha is determined to win them back, whatever the price... A powerful story for 10 years plus.
Stories of WWI Edited by Tony Bradman(Orchard Books, £7.99)
A collection of short stories from 12 award-winning children's authors including Malorie Blackman and Adele Geras. From the heart of the trenches to Zeppelin raids and fighting on the front line, as well as life back on the Home Front, the life and times of WWI's everyday heroes are brought to life, In Europe and across the globe.
The amazing tale of Ali Pasha by Michael Foreman(Templar, £7.99)
On 6th May 1915, Henry Friston, a 21-year-old seaman, rejoined his battleship after ten days on the battlefield at Gallipoli. Then, somehow, in the midst of the bombardments, he met an unlikely companion – a tortoise. Ali Pasha became the mascot of Henry's ship and returned to England after the war, living with the Friston family until his death in 1987.
Stay where you are and then leave by John Boyne(Puffin, £10.99)
Four years after War broke out Alfie doesn't know where his dad might be, or if he'll ever come home. Then he realises his father is in a hospital close by, a hospital treating soldiers with an unusual condition. Alfie is determined to rescue his father from this strange, unnerving place... A moving story from the author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.
Written specially for KS2 children, the See inside... series offers flaps to lift, vivid illustrations and fascinating facts to uncover. Look inside trenches, see an attack across no man’s land, find out what goes on inside a tank, how fighter planes defended the skies against airships and lots more, from the muddy trenches of northern France to the jungles of East Africa.
Dear Jelly by Sarah Ridley(Franklin Watts, £7.99)
Author Sarah Ridley’s ancestors, the Semples, were split apart by the First World War. While William and Robert were fighting in France, their younger sisters, Mabel and Jelly (Eileen), were in school back in England. To keep in touch, they wrote letters. Dear Jelly presents these letters and their illustrations, with commentary to help children understand facts about the War.
A Song for Will by Hilary Robinson & Martin Impey(Strauss House, £14.99)
A fictional story told through letters, based on historical records from the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall. Fourteen-year-old Alfie longs to sign up when war is declared in 1914, but through the letters he exchanges with older friends from his village, deployed at the front, he begins to understand the reality of battle. A beautiful, fully-illustrated tribute to the young men who never returned to Heligan.
Remembrance by Theresa Breslin(Random House, £6.99)
Suitable for Y6 children and above, Carnegie-Medal-winning author Theresa Breslin has written a powerful novel about The Great War has it engulfs a group of friends, their families and the village they live in.
The Christmas Truce by Hilary Robinson & Martin Impey(Strauss House, £7.99)
The famous Christmas Day truce remembered in a poem for children. On Christmas Eve, 1914 a group of soldiers sang Stille Nacht in the trenches and the soldiers on the other side of No Man’s Land responded with Silent Night. The next day, German and British soldiers exchanged festive greetings and played a game of football to celebrate the spirit of Christmas Day.
Flo of the Somme by Hilary Robinson & Martin Impey(Strauss House, £7.99)
An incredible 50,000 dogs, 100,000 pigeons and 8,000,000 mules and horses played a part in the Great War, as well as elephants, camels, cats, canaries, goats, bears, rabbits, glow-worms and chickens – and a babboon, a golden eagle and a fox! Flo of the Somme pays tribute to their bravery and sacrifice.
War Is Over by David Almond(£10.99, Hodder Children's Books)
Written to commemorate the hundred-year anniversary of the end of the First World War, War Is Over is the story of a British boy searching for peace, in his imagination and the real world. In 1918, everyone in John's life is on a battlefield – his father is in the trenches, his mother works in a munitions factory and he himself is "at war" with German children (or so he's told). Could there be another way to be? Short, simple and beautifully illustrated.