It was, said President Franklin Roosevelt, “ a date which will live in infamy.” On December 7, 1941 the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The following day, Congress declared war on Japan and brought the United States irrevocably into World War II. In the decades since, much has been written, filmed and recorded about the war and it continues to be analyzed, researched and interpreted today. It was a war of such historical significance that, seventy-one years later, authors are still finding fresh and gripping ways to engage young adult readers in the events and people of World War II. So, in honor of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, here are two books that were published just this year that explore completely different aspects of the war.
Filled with great characters, richly described settings and gut wrenching actions, this is a book that will make readers cry. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein is set in England and German-occupied France and tells the harrowing story of a friendship forged during the war. Queenie is a British spy and Maddie, a pilot for the air transport auxiliary. The two young women, despite differences in class, education and temperament, meet as wireless operators and become best friends. Their story unfolds as Queenie writes her confession, having been caught by the Germans upon her arrival in France. Knowing that she lives only as long as she has information to give, Queenie slowly eeks out details, and begins by writing of Maddie, how they met, and how Maddie came to be the pilot who flew Queenie to France. The book is a testament to courage and loyalty and strength in the face of overwhelming odds. The characters are so completely believable, their back-story so well defined that this fictional account feels real. Thankfully, the author has an afterword that describes the factual elements of her book and the extensive research she did to keep it true to its time. Whether or not one is a fan of historical fiction or World War II settings, this book has garnered so many positive reviews that it’s a must read for 2012.
Bomb: the Race to Build-and Steal-the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin tell the true tale of the atomic bomb: from its very beginnings as scientists discover that atoms could be split, to its manufacturing and testing, and finally, as the ultimate weapon of mass destruction when it’s dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Sheinkin has written a nonfiction book that reads like a great spy novel. There are scientists acting as informants, government agents tracking movements and bugging the homes of suspected spies and traitors, a country at war and a military looking to win. Successfully weaving through the formidable cast of characters, situations and decisions made during a time of great upheaval, the author also brings the consequences home to the present. Treaties have reduced the number of atomic weapons stored by the United States and Russia, but other countries have been building their own atomic arsenals. As Sheinkin states in the epilogue, “It’s a story with no end in sight. And, like it not, you’re in it.” A fascinating look at our past and a foreboding warning for our future.