The Cold War is a vague historical event to most kids. Because of that, it’s a hard sell. But there are some great historical fiction books out there needing to be read. All of these books deal with some aspect of Communism. Exposing truths in order to help kids understand the clash of ideology between Democracy and Communism and why the United States went to such extreme measures to try and prevent the spread of Communism.
A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Post WW2, Germany is a country divided. In the early 60s a wall goes up in Berlin to separate West Berlin, which is Democratic, and East Berlin, which is Communist. Greta’s father and older brother are visiting West Berlin when the barbed wire goes up on the Berlin Wall and the gates slam shut, preventing travel between the two sides of the city. Greta and her brother Fritz feel like prisoners on the east side and risk their lives to tunnel under the wall to the west.
Enchanted Air: A Memoir by Margarita Engle
Margarita is caught between two cultures. Her mother is Cuban. Her father is American. When the Cuban Revolution in the early 60s sets up a political hatred between the two countries, Margarita doesn’t know where her loyalties should lie. She can’t let go of the beautiful Cuba she once knew. Quick and written in verse.
The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Lucy sees the signs that things are changing in Cuba. At first she wants to join the Communist revolution, but she eventually understands why her father is resisting and why he is willing to send her and her brother to Florida along with 14,000 other children in Operation Pedro Pan. First she lives in a children’s camp in Florida and then she joins a foster family in Nebraska.
90 Miles to Havana by Enrique Flores-Galbis
This is another book about Operation Pedro Pan. When things begin to fall apart for families in the Cuban Communist revolution, Julian’s parents send him and his brothers to a refugee camp in Florida. There they must survive the kid bully, Caballo, who rules like a dictator. Julian escapes and risks his life to help a boy, Tomas, bring more Cubans safely to America in a ramshackle boat.
Countdown by Deborah Wiles
This book looks at the Cold War from America’s perspective. It’s 1962 and 12-year-old Franny is dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the fear that the US and the Soviet Union are going to start a nuclear war. Just in case, they have bomb drills at school and her military dad is on high alert. The book also highlights many of the cultural influences of the 60s.
The Enemy by Sara Holbrook
It’s 1954 Detroit and Marjorie is very aware of the Anti-Communist sentiment. The boy living in her basement hates Germans. Her dad is always worried about coming under suspicion at his government job since her mom is going up against the library for banning books. When a new German girl comes to Marjorie’s school, she sees the intolerance of the other kids and she faces a moral dilemma of standing by the girl or joining the kids in teasing her.
Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin
In 1950s Soviet Union, Josef Stalin rules with an iron fist. Anyone who disagrees with Communism risks severe punishment. 10-year-old Sasha has been indoctrinated and admires Stalin. He can’t wait to join the Young Pioneers. But on initiation day at school things go terribly wrong. Kids with accused parents are humiliated by the teacher. Sasha slowly begins to put two-and two together and figures out that his father has been accused. And then he accidentally breaks the nose off the Stalin statue. Things are going to get bad. Quick read.
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
This book touches on the Vietnam War, which was South Vietnam’s attempt to prevent the spread of Communism from North Vietnam. When the North’s victory is clear, many South Vietnamese flee to America. This is mostly the author’s true account of her struggle to transition into the American culture. Quick and written in verse.
The Apothecary by Maile Meloy
This book is a different approach to explaining the Soviet Union’s nuclear threat. It’s both a fantasy and historical fiction book. Since Jane’s American parents are labeled as Communist sympathizers, they take a job in London. Jane meets Benjamin, the apothecary’s son, and soon finds herself embroiled in the middle of a Soviet plot to set off a nuclear bomb. Only the apothecary has the means to reverse the explosion. Full of spies and “spells.”