Young Voices from the Field and Home Front: World War II as Depicted in Contemporary Children’s Literature

Wendy Stephens


Promoting support for Allied Forces was a central theme of contemporary children’s literature in the eve of and during World War II; the body of work captures a surprisingly complex and conflicted view of armed conflict and nationhood.

Amid the expected imperatives that American children scavenge scrap metal for war bonds and cozy stories of English children evacuated to safety in North America, there is nostalgia for pastoral Russia and an unabashed celebration of the Soviet collective effort. In one of the most charged depictions, a pair of dachshunds forced to wear Nazi uniforms outwit their master. An Austrian refugee, the creation of a refugee writer, pointedly informs a naïve French peasant boy: “There are a great many Germans who hated the Nazis, didn’t you know that?”1 before revealing his father was a prisoner at Dachau.

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Maria Gleit, Pierre Keeps Watch (New York: Scribner’s, 1944), 96.

Mildred Jordan, The Shoo-Fly Pie (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994).

Emery Kelen, Yussuf the Ostrich (New York: Hyperion, 1943), n.p.

“Emery Kelen,” in Contemporary Authors Online (Detroit: Gale, 2003), accessed October 3, 2016, Literature Resource Center.

Paul Fussell, Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990).

Dirk van der Heide, My Sister and I: The Diary of a Dutch Boy Refugee (New York: Harcourt, 1941).

Nila Arah Mack, Animal Allies (New York: Jules Messner, 1942), n.p.

Vera Edelstadt, Young Fighters of the Soviets (New York: Knopf, 1944).

Zlata Fuss Phillips, “Florian Kraner,” German Children’s and Youth Literature in Exile 1933–1950: Biographies and Bibliographies (Munchen: Saur Verlag, 2001), 82–83.

Arkady Gaidar, Timur and His Gang (New York: Scribner’s, 1943).

Munro Leaf, A War-time Handbook for Young Americans (Philadelphia: Stokes, 1942).

H. A. Rey, Tommy Helps, Too (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1943).

Inez Hogan, Nicodemus Helps Uncle Sam (New York: Dutton, 1943).

Le Grand Henderson, Augustus Drives a Jeep (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1944).

Carolyn Haywood, Primrose Day (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1942).

Mollie Panter-Downes, Watling Green (New York: Scribner’s, 1943).

Theresa Kalab Smith, Watching for Winkie (New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1942), n.p.

Norman Longmate, How We Lived Then: A History of Everyday Life during the Second World War (London: Arrow,1971), 442.

Mary Treadgold, We Couldn’t Leave Dinah (Oxford: Alden Press, 1941), 129.



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