• Susan Koehler

Through a Soldier’s Eyes

Updated: Nov 21


Books recommendations in honor of Veteran's Day


Perhaps the greatest power possessed by books is that they can help us see the world through the eyes of people unlike ourselves. As we observe Veterans Day, a time to honor all who have served and continue to serve in our country’s military, it’s an opportune time to recognize some middle grade books that give us an understanding of life from the soldier’s eyes.


Young people throughout the country participate in honoring veterans. They march in parades, write letters of gratitude, and study historical events. However, short of actual experience, a book is the best way to understand life from the soldier’s eyes.




Sophia’s War

Avi

Set during the American Revolution, this book tells the story of a young girl who must embark on a dangerous mission in order to advance the cause of freedom. The book begins with the protagonist witnessing the hanging of Nathan Hale, helps readers identify with a female character who becomes part of the wartime effort, and provides sobering details about her brother’s experience as a soldier.



Forge

Laurie Halse Anderson


Part of the author’s Seeds of America series, this book tells the story of Curzon, who has escaped slavery and joined the efforts of the Union Army at Valley Forge. In addition to a soldier’s perspective during the American Revolution, this book offers several unique points of view that can help develop our understanding of this pivotal time in America’s history.




Moon Over Manifest

Clare Vanderpool

While the main story takes place during the Great Depression, the protagonist works to discover what she can about the World War I experience of a mysterious spy known as the Rattler. Through a series of letters and a time-hopping narrative, the reader is able to get a glimpse of life from behind the soldier’s eyes.




Under a War Torn-Sky

L. M. Elliot


This gripping narrative tells the story of Henry Forester, a World War II pilot who is trapped behind enemy lines after his plane is shot down. The tension remains high as Henry navigates his way through occupied France. The author, a former journalist, has written several award-winning books that demonstrate various perspectives during times of war and political turmoil.





The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA

Brenda Woods

This book shares the post-war experience of a soldier who had driven a tank in the Army's all-Black 761st Tank Battalion in World War II. Unfortunately, when he returns home, he is not met with the same honor and respect as white soldiers. His experience is revealed through the eyes of a boy who is stunned to learn of this injustice and decides he must find a way to honor this hero.




Shooting the Moon

Frances O’Roark Dowell


When her older brother goes off to war in Viet Nam, 12-year-old Jamie anticipates thrilling letters from the front line. However, the letters she receives contain rolls of undeveloped film, and through these images, Jamie is able to witness her brother’s reality and reshape her understanding of war.





The danger in creating a book list is that it is never complete. There are certainly titles that I’ve overlooked, like many of the works of Alan Gratz, the young reader’s version of Lauren Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, and countless others. But this list is a start.


These books offer the unique experience of seeing from a soldier’s perspective. As we honor our veterans, we can seek to understand their experiences through literature.






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