The evacuees were to sleep in the big attic room with dark beams overhead. It was chilly and had no electric light or carpets but there was a nice woody smell. A curtain hung down the middle. Joyce, Patsy and Winnie were together on one side and Lenny was alone on the other.
— The Lion and the Unicorn, Shirley Hughes
In just this paragraph alone from Shirley Hughes’ beautifully illustrated The Lion and the Unicorn, Hughes transports me back in time and I can feel something of what poor little Lenny was feeling as he spent the first night in an unknown house after his evacuation from London. It may not be a factual book on World War II and Lenny is a fictitious character, but it is historical novels such as these that help readers of all ages to engage their emotions and senses as they learn from the past. Some people refer to such books as ‘living history’ – there is life in the pages and the reader is drawn into another world.
Over the last few years along with the children I have appreciated learning history not only chronologically but through well-written historical fiction – both in the form of picture books and longer chapter books. This has undoubtedly given me new eyes to appreciate history, the story of where we’ve come from. So it was no surprise to me that when my older two children came home from their new schools recently, they were eager to tell us that one was studying the Victorians this term, and the other is learning about World War II. This excitement was followed by a request to go through the bookshelves digging out any books on these subjects and make room on a shelf to have related fiction readily accessible. I will admit this did warm my heart.
Some of the fruit of that conversation is below…a list of historical fiction set in WWII for my 8 year old boy to enjoy over the coming weeks. I have to admit I’m not sure I could read this many WWII books in a row!
Do scroll down for ideas:
And for those interested in Victorian fiction for primary aged children some recommendations will be coming soon…