These excellent books make it easy to introduce even young children to the difficult topic of World War I. I learned a lot from reading them too!
Knit Your Bit: A World War I Story by Deborah Hopkinson
This is a fictional story based on the true story of children who helped knit clothing and bandages for soldiers during World War I. I love the story because it shows children that they can make a difference. And did you know that you can still knit for soldiers overseas today? Check out http://www.knittingforcharity.org
Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion by Chris Barton
This is a true story and was way more engaging than I expected (since I’m not super interested in war ships and such). It tells about how the Allies painted their war ships in funky ways to try to confuse enemy submarines. My children were fascinated by this little-known story and so was I!
The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans by Barbara Elizabeth Walsh
The true account of a compassionate woman who found ways to make a difference for soldiers and veterans. This is a lovely story that shows that one person really can make a big impact in the lives of others.
Midnight: A True Story of Loyalty in World War I by Mark Greenwood
A sweet story about the bond of a soldier and his favorite horse. This one has a sad ending, so be cautious if your child is a tender-hearted animal-lover.
Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick
This is the true story of the beloved mascot of a unit of Canadian soldiers during WWI. She later became a resident of the London Zoo, where she developed a friendship with Christopher Robin Milne, and inspired his naming of Winnie-the-Pooh. My kids and I loved this story so much that we had to read the full version (read the next entry for information on that)!
Winnie’s Great War by Lindsay Mattick and Sophie Blackall
This is a longer version of the above story. Though it is not a picture book (it does have great illustrations, though!), I include it here because it is a gentle and very kid-friendly way to introduce World War I. While based on the true story of Winnie and her friends, it is an imaginative tale from Winnie’s point of view, where animals speak to one another. The style of the writing is sweet and engaging, and great for any age. Highly recommended!
Stubby by Kathy Borrus
Stubby might look familiar to you – he’s the mascot of the Georgetown Hoyas! He served in the trenches in WWI and was promoted to sergeant for his heroism. This is a very simple book and a short read, and it has a happy ending, so it’s great for very young children.
Rags: Hero Dog of WWI, A True Story by Margot Theis Raven
This is another story of a dog who became a war hero. This one is a little sad at the end, but it is an engaging story that gives a glimpse of life on the WWI battlefront. My kids and I really enjoyed this one.
The Donkey of Gallipoli: A True Story of Courage in World War I by Mark Greenwood
This is the true story of John Simpson Kirkpatrick, who rescued over 300 wounded soldiers on the battlefront of WWI. It tells of the violence and death that occurred during the war, but lightly enough that a young child can understand but not be traumatized. It does have a sad ending, but the story is told in a detached enough way that it is manageable for the young and tender-hearted. I really liked this book, and the main character is really inspiring.
Rettie and the Ragamuffin Parade: A Thanksgiving Story by Trinka Hakes Noble
This is from the Tales of Young Americans Series (which I highly recommend!). While it only mentions WWI in passing, it does give insight into what was happening in the United States during the war, and describes the impact of the Spanish Flu pandemic from a child’s point of view, which is of particular interest to children of today!