Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Winter's Tale: Louise Spiegler on Shakespearean Historical Fiction

This winter, I taught a Shakespeare class in a glass conservatory smack in the middle of a large wetland on the University of Washington Bothell campus. Long grasses, frog-filled ponds, and the big, cloud-swept sky were perfect surroundings for diving into Shakespeare’s wild poetry with a lively class of college freshmen. A director friend who visited us exclaimed, “What a setting! Let’s go drown Ophelia in the pond!”

There was an on-going joke among my students about Shakespeare’s “Daddy issues”. The plays are crawling with them! Look at Jessica and Shylock, Hamlet Senior and Hamlet Junior and let’s not even get into Mr. Lear and his daughters.

It’s no coincidence that two novels I’m considering here — Poor Tom’s Ghost by Jane Louise Curry and King of Shadows by Susan Cooper —both involve the fraught emotional ties between sons and fathers.

In Poor Tom’s Ghost, Roger Nicholas’s blended family move into a tacky, run-down house built in Shakespeare’s time. Roger is an anxious but charming kid whose dad, Tony, is an actor. He’s lived a peripatetic and insecure life until Tony’s recent marriage. However, every time his father and stepmother quarrel, Roger fears their new family will come unglued. He desperately hopes this ramshackle house will become a real home for them and anchor their fragile family.

There’s one hitch. The house is haunted by the grieving ghost of Tom Garland, a lead actors in Shakespeare’s company, and the ghost of his narcissistic, jealous younger brother, Jack, who engineered the tragedy that ruined Tom's life. The misery of this long-dead family starts infecting Roger's modern-day family. And soon, strange things start to happen.

Curry uses a performance of Hamlet, where Tony is playing the lead, to convey that the ghost of Tom Garland has possessed him. Roger notices his dad’s accent shift from a modern London to a softer, almost American intonation, closer to the speech of Elizabethan England. Tony’s performance transforms as well, becoming uncannily powerful:

"From the first appearance of the Ghost, Roger was caught by a sense of hurtling inertia, of unwilled movement toward catastrophe, and was stunned by the power of the play. … (Tony’s) voice, compelling, with an odd, soft shadow of accent, his gestures… were the notes of a fine instrument played with intensity and ease, passion and restraint. Roger’s private belief that his father was one of the best actors anywhere almost faltered. It seemed incredible that even Tony could be so good." (Curry 72)

One of the things that makes Shakespeare's plays such a strong narrative element in fiction for young people is that the writer can rely on at least  basic familiarity, since Shakespeare is often taught in schools. This allows a whole array of connotations to bloom in readers' minds. For example, I used a rehearsal of a scene from Macbeth in my novel, The Jewel and the Key, to foreshadow the violence one of my characters would encounter when he enlists to fight in World War One. Curry and Cooper both use the rich possibilities of the plays to open out their narratives.

Both authors also take a leap into time travel. In Poor Tom's Ghost, Tony is stricken with a disease resembling bubonic plague — the sickness that may have killed Tom Garland— and this propels Roger into the past.  He enters Jack’s world in the plague year of 1603, possessing Jack the way that Tom has possessed Tony, to try to undo the deceptions and betrayals Jack inflicted on Tom, thereby change Tom's fate, and -- he hopes -- his father's. 

Curry powerfully conveys the Elizabethan heartbeat pumping behind the modern narrative. You feel it in the actors’ allusive use of Shakespeare’s verse, the parallels between the characters in the different times, the deep sense of place and atmosphere. It’s a complex and beautiful novel, more young-adult than middle grade.

Susan Cooper’s King of Shadows, written twenty years later, borrows Curry’s ideas but uses them quite differently. Unlike Curry's book, Cooper's is clearly aimed at middle-grade readers.

The protagonist, Nat Field, is a contemporary boy-actor, given the opportunity to act at London's Globe Theater. Like Roger, he is fraught by emotions stirred by his father. In his case, his father committed suicide. He finds himself shifted mysteriously into Shakespeare’s world when he, like Tony in Poor Tom, is stricken with bubonic plague.

Now a boy-actor at the Globe in 1599, Nat finds a surrogate father in none other than Will Shakespeare himself – who has recently lost his own son, Hamnet. The relationship between Nat and Will Shakespeare is beautifully shaded, and the reader gets a real sense of Nat’s healing. 

Cooper uses a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream to convey the boisterous experience of acting on Shakespeare’s stage. Here’s Nat describing the actor playing Bottom the Weaver, who wakes from a dream to find he has the head of a donkey:

"Master Burbage had a terrific ass’s head. The oldest tireman, Luke, was a real whiz at special effects: put him in the twentieth century with computers to play with and he’d have made a lot of money in Hollywood. The head’s eyes rolled wildly, on command, and the ears went up and down and sideways. The groundlings loved it. They cheered and shrieked like little children." (Cooper 126)

Cooper’s descriptions of Elizabethan London have a different flavor than Curry’s. While Curry’s London is more subtle and haunting. Cooper makes sure we see the heads on Tower Bridge, smell what’s oozing out of the gutters, and experience rehearsals and performances at the Globe. She even takes in a bear-baiting, through Nat's horrified eyes:

"The crowd roared. Even over the din you could hear the bear bellow with pain and rage. His face was turned full in our direction as he tossed up his head, blood dripping from his neck, and in sick horror I realized that he could not see.

I shouted in Harry’s ear, appalled, “The bear is blind!”

Harry’s cheerful, open face was alight with excitement. “Of course — Blind Edward — they put out his eyes for better sport.” (Cooper 66)

No kid is going to forget that visceral description.

Elizabethan England would be a compelling time period for young readers even without Shakespeare thrown into the mix. But there’s something that Shakespeare adds to these novels — because the plays themselves are still so vibrant and alive — that, in the right hands, creates magic.

Louise's novels are available for order at:

The Jewel and the Key: Amazon 
The Amethyst Road: Amazon Barnes and Noble 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Joanne Sundell on How I’m trying to find my Young Adult audience and get them reading!

My latest release, Arctic Storm, Book One, Watch Eyes Trilogy (Five Star Publishing, 2014), is the tale of 13-year-old Anya and her quest to save her pack of Siberian huskies against great danger in the spirit world. Set in 1908 Alaska, Anya battles dark forces in a landscape almost as dangerous as her enemies. A young Chukchi shaman, Anya is a medium, able to pass between the spirit world and the human world. Joining forces with a 16-year-old seafarer, Rune, Anya embarks on a deadly journey, determined to do anything to save her dogs from the dark forces threatening their existence. 

While this is a work of fiction, it is based in fact … historical fact.

I found my young adult, coming of age story when I looked back in history to unearth the origins of the Siberian husky.  In years past, I’ve written historical romance with my heroines seventeen or older.  Today some of my novels might be considered young adult crossover, but I never thought about my fiction audience before, in terms of age, per se.  I did my research.  Found my story in that research.  Then, let the characters develop as fact and fiction unfolded.   

That is precisely what happened when I began to undertake the writing of Watch Eyes Trilogy.  No one was more surprised than me when I found that my heroine was thirteen and my hero, sixteen—the human ones, that is.  The dogs are key to this story but then so are their young human guardians, Anya and Rune.  I didn’t find my young characters, but they sure found me in the mist and magic of times long forgotten.   My characters also “found me” in the books and films I’ve enjoyed, including Harry Potter, the Twilight series, and the Hunger Games.

The mist and magic in these stories sparked my imagination and opened up any possible “port-keys” in this grandma’s thinking, to allow me to enjoy the literary ride through page after page, reel after reel.  When I began writing Arctic Storm, the spirit of these captivating stories for young people stayed fixed in my heart and mind.  It was this pulse I wanted to strike … this reach-out to young adult readers … this note in history where the lines between fantasy and fiction become blurred … just enough to hook you on history and believe the impossible is, in fact, possible.

Call of the Wild meets Brother Bear in this epic tale of adventure, endurance and young love - a heroic journey tested against America’s last frontier. 


Here is what PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY had to say about Arctic Storm:  “Sundell’s novel evokes the atmosphere of the early 20th century frontier, reminiscent at times of Jack London’s work.  Blending historical and fantasy fiction is no easy feat, but Sundell captures her reader’s interest with appropriate period details and a new take on common fantasy tropes.  This is a refreshing story that neatly fits within the genre while also exploring new ground.”

HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY said the following:  “The plot revolves around the first race, in 1908, which pitted stocky Eskimo ‘malamutes’ against the smaller Siberian huskies, brought into Alaska, in the 19th century, by Russian traders.  In 1908 and 1909 the 408 mile race from Nome to Candle and back was won by malamute teams, but in 1910 the ‘Sibiriskiy haskis’ triumphed, and this historical tidbit has the makings of a fascinating sequel to this delightful book.”


There is a well-drawn, respected line between credibility and the supernatural; not easily crossed.  But … the lines of possibility that exist in between surely can.  Books are a powerful and safe place to explore this possibility.  This is my purpose in Watch Eyes Trilogy, not only to share the human struggle for life and love in such a rugged land, but also to explore the spirit world that might exist in mist and magic, beyond ours.  Any telling of the factual, heroic journey of the Siberian husky to survive is impossible to tell, without this accompanying mystical exploration.  Young or old, books provide an opportunity to see outside ourselves and break through barriers that might keep us from learning and finding our own truth.

Anything is possible . . . when you open a book.

There is a dark side to the history of the Siberian husky and when I discovered the details of the horror visited upon the Chukchi people and their dogs in the wake of Communist collectivization and industrialization, essentially erasing thousands of years of careful breeding and wiping out the Siberian husky in Russia for the next eighty years, I couldn’t find my PC fast enough to begin the telling!  The young breeders of the Chukchi dog and the young pioneers on the Alaska frontier in the early 20th century are heroes in history who struggled valiantly to save this unique breed.  I would love young people today to learn of their forbearers. 


Titles that might relate to Watch Eyes Trilogy and interest students are:

Gold Rush Dogs by Claire Rudolf Murphy and Jane G. Haigh

Call of the Wild by Jack London

White Fang by Jack London

All Alaska Sweepstakes: History of the Great Dog Race by Helen Hegener

The most famous Chukchi writer is Yuri Rytkheu.  His works are primarily in Russian and include:

The Chukchi Bible

A Dream in Polar Fog


QUESTIONS to consider for students, after the reading of Arctic Storm

Where did the Siberian husky originate?

How old is the breed?

What makes the Siberian husky different from other husky breeds?

Who are the Chukchi people?

Why was it so important for the Chukchi dog, the Siberian husky, to escape Russia?

What is a shaman?

What is a medium?

What do you know about Viking mythology?

What was life like in Nome during Gold Rush days?

How did people survive the severe climate, the lawlessness, and the isolation of the Arctic West—America’s last frontier?

How hard was it for young people, growing up in Siberia and Alaska during this time?  What were their struggles?  How did they survive such a violent, often hostile, and always isolated frontier?

Could young people from two completely different cultures, come together to find happiness and love during such a difficult and unhappy time?

What do the history books tell us?

Though my career began as a nurse, I turned to the world of writing due to my love for literature, especially Jane Eyre and “all things Jane Austen.”  Trying my own hand at writing historical romance, I’ve had six published novels in the genre, to date.  After the death of my last Siberian husky, Xander, I researched the breed and uncovered a dark history no one seems to talk about.  This secret became the inspiration for Watch Eyes Trilogy.

I thank everyone at MAD ABOUT MIDDLE GRADE HISTORY for allowing me this opportunity to guest blog!

Husky Hugs, 

If you wish, you may find me and my books here:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ingredients of Good Multicultural Historical Fiction: Avoiding the “Dances with Wolves Syndrome” by Michele Hathaway

Joseph Bruchac refers to stories that portray one culture as good and another as bad as the “Dances with Wolves Syndrome.” In these stories, protagonists are often complex, quiet, and deep, for example, the Noble Native American. Antagonists are notoriously uncomplicated and ignorant, such as the tobacco spitting, trigger happy, whites. Notice how even the terms underline the difference: the Native American is given a geographic reference, but whites have no geographic origin or color—or capitalization.

Human Dignity

Dances with Wolves literature not only perpetuates cultural stereotypes and inaccuracies, it re-sows and nourishes racial tension. Stories must show wrongs—in age-appropriate doses—in all their ugliness, of course. It is the way this is done that is problematic. One clue to poor storytelling is if the reader comes away with a sense of pity for the oppressed. Showing one people as entirely the victim of another, paradoxically, diminishes that culture’s humanity. Even people in concentration camps are not powerless. They make choices. They can decide to sacrifice themselves for others, to have hope, to endure—even to die well. They can have dignity. The difference here is respect, not pity.

Jim Murray, Scholastic, 2009
Human Complexity

Another problem with Dances with Wolves Syndrome is that it often simplifies the complex. As you know, history is a labyrinth of connecting passages, convergences, and dead ends. Those who attempt to teach or write about it for the young have an almost overwhelming job.

There is always a backstory. Usually the backstory has a backstory. Perpetrators of injustice can be convinced or brainwashed about their actions. Some, perhaps many, are conflicted. There were Germans during the world wars who were embedded in a system where they felt powerless. There were teachers in American Indian boarding schools who thought they were doing the right thing by not letting children speak their own language. I’m not suggesting that backstory excuses wrong, but good multicultural historical fiction fosters empathy, not enmity.

Truth in the Telling

I am writing a series of stories about a Navajo family set in the late to post WWII era where I explore life on the Navajo reservation, in boarding schools, and in a tuberculosis sanatorium, among other settings. Indian boarding schools have a long dark history. Children were sometimes stolen from their homes. They were stripped of their identity, given a European education, and returned to their families, if they survived, unrecognizable—living victims of ethnic cleansing, make no mistake.

Dig into the history, however, and you’ll find that on the Navajo reservation, things took a turn for the better in the 1930’s—better, not best. In the postwar ‘50s, education and conditions climbed upward. If you read biographies, even from earlier periods, you will get a wide spectrum of experience. While most children were still homesick, some liked indoor plumbing, getting more food, and solid ceilings rather than sand and dirt sifting down from a hogan roof. Some children escaped a life of hardship, sometimes even abuse. Also many parents and grandparents insisted their children go to school because they saw it as a path to making their way in a changing world. Conversely, there were children who loved their way of life and wanted nothing to do with any other. The point is that a story must be accurate for as many involved as possible. It must show the grey between the back and white.

It's a Human Thing

Good multicultural literature is for everyone. When the last paragraph is read, we should feel more connected to others and our own humanity, not less—more united than divided. Why do we love the story of the Christmas Truce so much? Because even our enemies can sing the same songs, love the same sports, dream the same dreams. In the end we are more alike than we are different.

As one of my Navajo friends likes to say “It’s a human thing."

Michele Hathaway is a writer and freelance editor. She has an M. A. in Social Anthropology and has worked in libraries in California, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania. She writes stories set in culturally diverse, historical and contemporary periods.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Crusades: Jennifer Bohnhoff Shares Exciting Titles for Middle Grade Readers

For many middle grade readers, the Middle Ages were exciting times! Knights on horseback! Damsels in distress! Dragons! (Forget the dragons. Contrary to popular opinion, there were no more dragons in Europe during the Middle Ages than there are now.)

One of the most exciting of times for readers of Medieval fiction is the Crusades. In 1095, Emperor Alexius I of Byzantium asked Pope Urban II for help in fighting the Seljuk Turks. Pope Urban promised forgiveness of sins for any who accepted the mission - a great excuse to act badly! The Crusade also promised an exciting, adventurous trip to the exotic Middle East and a chance to acquire lands and plunder, so it wasn't surprising that the Pope’s plea met with a tremendous response.

Urban may never have intended for the Crusaders to recapture the Holy Land from Muslims. It is hard to know, since all transcripts of his speech date from years after the event. Regardless, controlling the Holy Lands became the primary goal of Crusades for the next two hundred years.

The Third Crusade is the one that receives the most literary attention, primarily because of the star power of Richard the Lionheart, the noblest and most chivalric king of England, and Saladin, the greatest of the Moslem leaders. Knights Templars, who are both warrior knight and religious monks and the favorite characters of medieval conspiracy theories, also figure prominently in literature about the Crusades. Middle grade readers who want to know more about the Crusades might consider reading these novels:

Nathan, the main character in my newest novel, On Fledgling Wings, is the son of a knight who crusaded with Richard the Lionheart. His father is cold and distant, but that doesn’t stop Nathan from wishing that he could follow in his heroic father’s footsteps.

Catherine Jinks has written a series of four books about a young boy who is squire to a Templar Knight. Pagan’s Crusade: Book One of the Pagan Chronicles is set in Jerusalem prior to Saladin’s taking of the city. 

In The Book of the Lion, by Michael Cadnum, a young man named Edmund is forced to join the forces of Richard the Lionheart on the Third Crusade. Edmund journeys to the Middle East, where he witnesses brutality, compassion and courage.

Another book set during the Third Crusade is The Youngest Templar by Michael Spradlin. In it, the orphan Tristan must bring the most sacred of Christian relics, the Holy Grail, to Britain.

Elizabeth Laird’s Crusade focuses on two boys, one a Christian and the other a Muslim, during the Third Crusade.

Sylvie Weil’s My Guardian Angel is not set in the Holy Lands. This story considers the plight of Jews in the Rhine Valley at the hands of crusaders from the First Crusade.

In The Ramsay Scallop by Frances Temple, a 14 year old girl discovers that her fiance, Thomas is not the same man he was when he returns from Crusade. Broken and disillusioned from years of fighting, he finds the very idea of marriage and lordship overwhelming. The village priest sends them on religious pilgrimage, on which they meet other pilgrims who help them reexamine their lives.

Adventure, action, love, prejudice, clashes of culture and questions of morality:  there's something for every middle grade reader in a book about the Crusades.  Did I leave one of your favorite reads off the list?  I'd love to hear from you!

Jennifer Bohnhoff is a 7th grade Social Studies teacher and the author of three historical fiction books for middle grade readers.  For more information, go to

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Chris Eboch on Learning from the Maya

The author at Coba
After college, I spent a summer traveling through Mexico and Central America. I loved visiting the Mayan sites and learning about their history. The experience inspired my first novel, The Well of Sacrifice, a Middle Grade adventure/drama set in ninth-century Mayan times.

Some people ask why the Maya "disappeared." They didn't; they're still an active culture throughout Mesoamerica. But they did abandon the large cities they built centuries ago, going back to living in small villages and on farms.

Many people think the Maya civilization collapsed because they damaged the environment. Too many people lived in the cities, and the farmers couldn’t grow enough food. The soil got worse because it never had a chance to rest between planting. They used wood for building, cooking, and burning limestone to make plaster to coat their temples. Much of the jungles were cut down, so people could no longer find fruit and animals. And so they abandoned many of their great cities, long before the Spanish invaded.

One thing that intrigues me about history is how some of the lessons of the past resonate today. In The Well of Sacrifice, I explored some of the reasons the Mayan civilization collapsed. But I also showed how one person could have caused change.

Eveningstar and the other characters are totally fictional, but many other things in the book are real. I never studied the Maya in school. I have college degrees in Photography and Professional Writing and Publishing. But once you know how to research, you can write about anything.

I studied history and archeology books to learn about the daily life of the Maya – what they ate and wore, their gods, their buildings, and the land around them. I was also living in New York City when I wrote the book, and I visited the amazing American Museum of Natural History to view their Mayan artifacts.

Previous posts on this blog have discussed the value of historical fiction. I'll admit, my main motive for reading and writing historical fiction is because I enjoy it. But we also can and should learn from the past. Historical fiction is a fun way to do that.

Visit my website for downloadable lesson plans to use with the Well of Sacrifice, plus lists of some historical fiction I enjoy and links to historical fiction databases.

Few books for young people have been written about the Maya, but here are some novels that cover Latin American culture from different eras. If you know of others, please add them to the comments.

Latin America Middle Grade Historical Fiction

  • The Well of Sacrifice, by Chris Eboch – ninth-century Mayan drama
  • Heart of a Jaguar, by Marc Talbert – Mayan (includes graphic violent scenes)
  • King's Fifth, by Scott O'Dell – 1541, New Spain (Mexico)
  • The Captive, by Scott O'Dell – Spanish expedition to the New World, with two sequels, The Feathered Serpent and The Amethyst Ring – early Central American civilizations.
  • The Incas : A Novel, The Luck of Huemac: A Novel About the Aztecs, and Tikal, by Daniel Peters – massive epics based on the pre-Colombian civilizations of Central and South America.
  • Pedro's Journal: A voyage with Christopher Columbus Aug. 3, 1492 – Feb.14, 1493, by P. Conrad
  • My Name Is Not Angelica, by Scott O'Dell – 1733 Virgin Islands slavery
  • El Guero: A True Adventure Story, by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino –nineteen-century Mexico
  • Secret of the Andes, by Ann Nolan Clark – an Incan boy in the mountains of Peru, early twentieth century
  • Grab Hands and Run, by Frances Temple – Flight from El Salvador in 1980s

Chris Eboch writes fiction and nonfiction for all ages, with several novels for ages nine and up. The Eyes of Pharaoh is an action-packed mystery set in ancient Egypt. The Genie’s Gift is an Arabian Nights-inspired fantasy adventure. In The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan girl in ninth-century Guatemala rebels against the High Priest who sacrifices anyone challenging his power. Learn more at or her Amazon page, or sign up for her newsletter.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Unofficial Truth of Historical Fiction

By Suzanne Morgan Williams

When I was a kid, I got a lot of my historical information from books like Little House on the Prairie, Little Women, and Black Beauty. Indeed, most of my ideas about English history came from Dickens, the Bronte Sisters, and other authors of historical novels. All of those books may not have been historical when they were published but they were to me. These days few kids seem to have a taste for 19th century literature and history may be slighted in favor of more “practical” subjects in school, so it’s up to today’s authors to recreate those worlds. Why?

History is important. It’s a cliché, but without a knowledge of the past, it’s all too easy to make the same disastrous decisions today. History does repeat itself. History connects us. Although our personal, family histories may differ, stories of war, empires, love, and family discord cross cultures. Who doesn’t admire a girl who follows her passion against all odds – whether she is Mulan or Joan of Arc? History gives us a depth of understanding. Try wrapping your mind around modern Utah without knowing the history of the Latter Day Saints or today’s voting rights issues without being familiar with Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights and women’s suffrage movements.

Text book history is official history. There aren’t enough pages in the books to include every event and everyone’s point of view. And texts are written (often decades ago), by academics (may be boring) and approved by committees (definitely political), to reflect the prevailing points of view of those people (probably middle and upper class). Historical fiction is an effective platform for adding balance and texture to state approved texts. Our books put a face on history. They catch readers’ interest in ways that textbooks can’t.

For example, read Winter People by Joseph Bruchac and tell me your view of Rogers Rangers and the French and Indian War doesn’t change, or Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson and try looking at colonial Boston in the same light as before. Read A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park, then go to an Asian art museum. Can you imagine the people who created celadon pottery centuries ago? Historical fiction can change perspectives and open young readers’ minds to ideas and worlds they’ve never thought of. Good historical fiction should raise questions and create space for empathy. We could all do with more of that.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Fighting World War II--Over There by Mary Louise Sanchez


I realize now I had a romantic and one sided view of World War II growing up.
Glenn Miller exhibit - University of Colorado, Boulder
Glenn Miller's trombone and the handwritten music manuscipt to
Moonlight Serenade.
As a Baby Boomer, I enjoyed the music of Glenn Miller and the big bands, and saw my parents dance the Jitterbug. I also heard family stories of WWII and poured over high school year books from the early 40s, and family albums, with women wearing the pompadour hairstyle of the day. I knew of family members in various branches of the armed services and believed Americans were the liberators of the world  because Americans worked together and sacrificed so that our armed services could end the war. But I never really thought about the sacrifices made by other countries during the war until I was in fifth grade.

That year, I specifically remember reading a couple chapters in our reading book about kids hiding gold from the Nazis in Norway. I was enthralled by the adventure story and learned about the efforts of the Norwegian people.  Much later as an adult, I found that the chapters I had read were from a book called Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan. The book was published in 1942 and students would still enjoy it today.
Glenn Miller exhibit - University of Colorado, Boulder
We do need to honor the Greatest Generation of American men and women who fought the war overseas and on the home front.  But we also need to remember the great sacrifices made by our allies, from the civilian ranks, as well as from the military ranks.

Below are some statistics listing the civilian and military death toll by country during WWII. They do not include wounded or missing. Figures from Switzerland, Ireland, and Sweden are not available because they were neutral during the war. It is not clear whether the statistics for WWII include those killed in the Holocaust, but the high numbers of Polish civilian dead suggest they may be included in the list.

Civilian and Military Deaths in the Second World War
Total Deaths
% of Pre-war Population
Military Deaths
Civilian Deaths

Great Britain
The Netherlands
New Zealand

Historical fiction makes it possible to put the story in history and give credit to our brothers and sisters overseas who played pivotal roles in the war. Historical fiction also illuminates time periods, integrates the curriculum, and enriches social studies by providing depth and multiple perspectives. 

By reading historical fiction about the war and balancing it with non-fiction, readers are exposed to the ten thematic strands of the NCSS National Council for the Social Studies. Also, students receive a vicarious and emotional experience of what life during the war was like when they read these historical fiction books.

 These are middle grade or YA historical fiction books about WWII that I've enjoyed reading with the setting—over there in Europe. I am not including books that deal specifically with the Holocaust. Those books deserve another blog post.  The pictures of the books are taken from Goodreads. The captions below the book illustrations tell the setting of the country
The War that Saved My Life
Germany - Battle of the Bulge