I'm constantly looking for great books to use for interactive read alouds. The books listed below are ones that I have found that tie into the historical fiction unit I have planned for my 5th grade students. As a class, we are reading The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and I am using the text to relate to the teaching points for our reader's workshop lessons. Our focus is on World War II and Holocaust and I have found quite a few related books. Here are a few of my favorites:
This is the true story of a woman named Irene Sendler, a Polish Catholic social worker, who helped save nearly 2,500 children from the Warsaw ghetto during the Nazi occupation in Poland during World War II. These books can be used to illustrate narrative nonfiction and character traits. Both books detail Irena's heroic actions amidst dangerous circumstances.
Always Remember Me: How One Family Survived World War II and I Will Come Back For You: A Family in Hiding During World War II by Marisbina Russo
In this story, Always Remember Me: How One Family Survived World War II, Rachel's Oma has two photo albums. One album holds pictures of happy times and this is the one that Rachel always gets to look at. One album holds memories of sadder times when the Nazis were in power in Germany. Oma never shares the second album with her granddaughter Rachel, until one special day when she feels Rachel is old enough to hear her family's story.. Oma tells Rachel about the perils her family endured during the war and how their love for one another helped them to survive. The book is based on the author's own family history and includes some real photographs. Another story by the same author and one that is based on her family's experiences during World War II is I Will Come Back for You: A Family In Hiding During World War II. The story tells of what it was like to grow up Jewish in Italy during the war. It is about a grandmother who shares a story with her granddaughter and details how she was separated from her father and had to hide from the Nazis in the mountains. Both stories are a great way to encourage students to ask their parents and grandparents about family history. Story telling is an excellent way to learn about history.
The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy
This legend illustrates how Denmark's King Christian X bravely stood up for the Danish citizens when Nazi's occupied Denmark. This is a story of bravery, heroism, and shows a country that came together to stand up to injustice. It's a wonderful way to introduce legends to students and help students compare and contrast historical facts to legends. In the author's note, the true facts that relate to the story are detailed. Regardless of whether the story is true, or not, it is a beautifully illustrated and touching book.
by Amy Littlesugar
In the story, Max and Willy meet and become fast friends when Max's father buys a beautiful painting from the antique shop that Willy's father owns. The boys discover they have many things in common. The only difference is one is Jewish and the other is not. The boys are inseparable until war breaks out and the Nazis invade. The Nazis take everything from Max's family, including the precious painting. The boys promise to be friends forever, but are eventually separated by the circumstances of war. The story spans many generations and Willy and Max's friendship endures because of the painting that began their friendship many years ago. A truly touching story about friendship and the effects of the Holocaust.
Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming
This is a story based on the author's mother's childhood, The story is about a young girl from America named Rosie who made a difference in the lives of people in the Dutch town of Olst in Holland during post World War II. Katje, a girl from Holland, receives special packages from Rosie in America. The packages are part of Rosie's goodwill effort to help the Dutch people who are trying to rebuild their lives after the war. Katje shares the contents of the boxes with the people of her Dutch town and sends letters of thanks to Rosie and her friends and family in Indiana. These kind exchanges brought two communities together in friendship even though there were thousands of miles apart. A wonderful story of how one person can make a huge difference.
by Christophe Gallaz
During wartime Germany, a young, compassionate girl named Rose witnesses a young boy being taken by Nazi soldiers. She secretly follows the truck to the concentration camp and sees many starving children. She begins to sneak food from home to bring to the boy and the other hungry children at the concentration camp. The story illustrates the perspective of war from a child's point of view. Rose, an innocent child, just wanted to help the other children. Take time to linger on the moving illustrations. I often pause on the pictures and have my student make predictions.
Benno and the Night of the Broken Glass by Meg Wiviott
A story about Kistallnacht, the beginning of the Holocaust, written from the perspective of Benno the cat. Benno lives in an apartment building with both Jewish and non Jewish families. They all love Benno and he loved all of his neighbors. Benno travels from apartment to apartment for scraps of food and special attention from the occupants. One day Benno wonders why everyone looks so sad. And why there are men in in brown shirts strutting about? Most importantly, he wonders what happened to the Adler family and Professor Goldfarb in his apartment building. This book is a great introduction to the Holocaust.
The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco
The story is about a young girl named Monique who lives in a small French village. Monique's village is occupied by Nazi soldiers. Monique thinks she keeps seeing a "ghost", but it is really a young girl named Sevrine, who is hiding from the Nazi soldiers. Monique discovers that her mother has been hiding Sevrine's family in their basement. The two girls become friends and play together at night, without anyone knowing. Then one day, the girls are discovered and Sevrine's family must flee. A great book to understand the war, friendship, and symbolism- ask students what the butterfly symbolizes in the story.
Star of Fear. Star of Hope by Jo Hoestlandt
In this story, an elderly French woman recalls the events of her childhood when the Nazis invaded France. The story centers around her confusion about the war and when her best friend had to wear a yellow star. Her friend mysteriously disappears and she constantly hopes they will be reunited again. It is another heart-breaking account of what many friends of Jews endured during the Holocaust. Many times they would wake up and their Jewish friends would have vanished, or they would see them get arrested.
Erika's Story by Ruth Vander Zee
During the midst of World War II in Nazi occupied Europe, a couple make a heart wrenching decision to save their infant daughter from a the fate that most Jews suffered at this time- death in concentration camps. A beautifully illustrated true story of a Holocaust survivor. Take time to notice the illustrations with students and see how they reflect the mood of the story.
There are quite a few beautifully written and illustrated picture books about the Holocaust, but these are some of my favorites to share with students. Once students learn a little about this part of history, they are intrigued to learn more and will usually seek out books in the library related to this topic.
Do you have any picture books that relate to historical fiction? Please share the titles in the comments section. We'd love to hear your ideas!