Thursday, May 5, 2016

Remembering D-Day

 The invasion of Normandy, commonly known as D-Day, happened on June 6, 1944. Next month we commemorate the 72nd anniversary of a battle in which 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany.

Here are five suggested books to help middle school students understand this important historical event. Two are nonfiction, and three are historical fiction.

 D-DAY:The Invasion of Normandy, 1944 [The Young Readers Adaptation]

The Guns at Last Light was the third book in Rick Atkinson’s #1 New York Times–bestselling adult trilogy about World War II. Here is a portion of it, adapted for young readers. This volume includes tons of period photos and does a good job of capturing the events and the spirit of the day that led to the liberation of western Europe from Nazi Germany's control. This is a great introduction to the battle, and will give students the prior knowledge they will need to understand the context of historical novels set in the period.

Remember D-Day: The Plan, the Invasion, Survivor Stories

This award-winning book was written in 2004 to honor the 60th anniversary of D-Day. Authored by Ronald Drez and published by National Geographic, it includes lots of photos and maps and a good discussion on the strategy used, the intelligence it was based upon, and the deceptions that led up this turning point in the war. 

Nonfiction books are great “birds-eye views” of D-Day. But historical fiction is better at giving readers a “boots on the ground” view of how it felt to be in the middle of the action. 

Scholastic Press published a series of historical novels for older boys called My Name Is America that did an excellent job on this. Each book was written in the form of a journal of a fictional young man's life during an important event or time period in American history. The series was discontinued in 2004 but the books are still enjoyed by middle school boys. 

 The Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins: A World War II Soldier, by renowned, award-winning author Walter Dean Myers is the book in this series that focuses on the events leading up to and during D-Day.
The main character, Private Scott Collins, is a seventeen-year-old soldier from central Virginia. As his regiment takes part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy and subsequent battles to liberate France, he records his experiences in a journal. By the end of the book he is no longer the naive young man who volunteered for war. The hardships and horror of battle have forever changed him.

On a budget? Like e-books? Search the web for free downloads of D-Day: A Second World War Soldier 1944, by Bryan Perrett. Part of the million-selling MY STORY series that gives the past a human touch,  D-DAY tells the story of Lieutenant Andy Pope who finds himself in command when every other officer in his company is injured while trying to cut off the Germans' line of retreat. This book is historically accurate and filled with the kinds of details that make for Vivid images, readers should love this first-hand account of danger and peril.

 But what was it like for those living in Normandy when the allies invaded? To answer this question, I humbly suggest my own middle grade historical novel, Code: Elephants on the Moon. This novel follows Eponine Lambaol, a Breton girl living in a village in Normandy not for from the beaches. She despises the Nazis who occupy her town and longs for the days before severe food rationing. As rumors of an allied invasion swirl around her, Eponine begins to understand that nothing and no one is what it seems, and that the phrase ‘The moon is full of elephants,’ which she hears on the radio, is really a code for members of the underground resistance who are preparing for the invasion.

Like Kindle Countdown Deals?
The Kindle version of Code: Elephants on the Moon will be on sale for only .99 on Amazon from May 5 through May 12.

Jennifer Bohnhoff teaches New Mexico History at a middle school in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She has written three historical novels for middle grade readers, which are available in paperback and ebook from many online book sellers. She also sells her paperbacks and offers free signed bookplates through her website.

Interested in Code: Elephants on the Moon? Click here for more information, including free CCSS teaching materials.

For pictures related to Normandy, Breton horses, and World War II, check out her Pinterest Page.

Subscribe to get posts automatically and never miss a post. You can use the Subscribe buttons to the right, or add to Feedly or another reader.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for all your suggestions, Jennifer. You've checked these books for accuracy, and they sound great, all of them. There's a generation, girls as well as boys, who need to read books like these which will help them realise what Americans have achieved. Why it is sometimes necessary to go to war. Above all, why, despite mistakes made by the country's leaders, they should be proud to be Americans.