The Vietnam War continues to evoke strong emotions for those who served and those who protested, but few kids today know much, if anything, about it. It isn’t covered in school curricula and doesn’t reach the level of World War II. It was a war unlike any other, and many kids, if introduced to it, will be fascinated. These are the best books in middle grade and teen nonfiction.
Vietnam: A History of the War by Russell Freedman
Excellent book by an icon in children’s nonfiction. Detailed account of the Vietnam conflict, including the history of the French occupation, the rise of Ho Chi Minh and Communism, and the U.S. involvement. Lots of photographs.
Boots on the Ground: American’s War in Vietnam by Elizabeth Partridge
My pick for the best book on the Vietnam War. The author paints the entire picture of the war with narrative perspectives from fighters, a medic, a nurse, a Vietnamese refugee, protestors, and presidents. It ends with the aftermath and the building of the Vietnam Memorial.
10,000 Days of Thunder: A History of the Vietnam War by Philip Caputo
My pick for the second-best book on the Vietnam War. Contains political insights, military strategies, military campaigns, public opinion, journalism, north and south ideology, and aftermath. Lots of photographs.
Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin
This is the story of the Pentagon Papers leak in 1971. After visiting Vietnam, Pentagon employee Daniel Ellsberg withdrew his support for the war. As the war continued to drag on, he made the difficult decision to publish a secret document divulging the deception of presidents Johnson and Nixon.
Escape from Saigon: How a Vietnam War Orphan Became an American Boy by Andrea Warren
My pick for the best book on Operation Babylift, the massive effort by charity organizations to get orphaned children out of Vietnam as it fell to the North Vietnamese. Excellent description of the fall of Saigon and the orphanages caught in the middle.
Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue from War by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
The story of one of several thousand Vietnamese children orphaned during the Vietnam War. Tuyet was airlifted out of Vietnam as Saigon was falling to the North and was adopted by a U.S. family.
The Vietnam War: From Da Nang to Saigon by Deborah Kent
A quick overview of the Vietnam War. It begins with the Gulf of Tonkin incident which sets the conflict into high gear, and ends with the fall of South Vietnam when U.S. troops vacate 10 years later.
Captured by Alvin Townley
Naval aviator Jeremiah Denton was shot down and captured in North Vietnam in 1965. He and other American POWs endured unimaginable torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese for 7 years.
The Vietnam War: You Choose by Michael Burgan
An interactive book where you choose your own story path. Experience the Vietnam War from the perspective of an American soldier, Vietnamese teen, or American war protester. 33 different choices.