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War Stories by Gordon Korman – Book Review

Title: War Stories

Author: Gordon Korman

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.

Release Date: July 21, 2020

RATING: 4.5 Stars

Trevor’s passion for World War II borders obsession, especially since his beloved great-grandfather, G.G., is a war hero. G.G. fought valiantly in WWII. Now, a small village in France wants to honor his efforts at their liberation celebration, giving Trevor a chance to walk in G.G.’s footsteps. From training camp to the shores of Normandy and the hedgerows of France, G.G. relives his experiences with Trevor and Trevor’s father at his side. However, a mysterious group from the small village in France claims G.G. is no hero. As G.G. and company travel closer to the village, the threats they receive manifest in actual attacks. Will they be enough to stop the family from attending the celebration or will G.G. arrive at the village ready to face the darkest chapter of his past?

War Stories by Gordon Korman is a gritty, thought-provoking novel about the realities of warfare. As the story alternates between G.G.’s war stories and his present-day retracing of them, readers get an intimate look at the devastating and long-lasting effects of war. The seamless flow between these two time periods enhances the novel’s themes and helps fully immerse the reader in G.G.’s experiences. While alternating point of views or time periods are often overused as a dramatic narrative technique, in Korman’s hands with War Stories, they contribute to an emotional portrait of how war inflicts scars deep and irrevocable. In addition to the novel’s structure, G.G.’s character development is captivating. He is authentically human: plucky, complex, multi-dimensional. Finally, the scenes of warfare provide all the suspense and conflict expected from such action. Yet, their juxtaposition to Trevor’s glorified notions about it serve to reinforce how destructive and enduring those moments are for those that experience them.

War Stories earns its place with other WWII middle grades novels, and rises to the top of must-read WWII titles. More recent literature captures different perspectives of the war, and Korman does so as well through another unique lens: a veteran. It is an important lens, and students will certainly gain valuable insight not only about the war but possibly – and more importantly – insight into how the war impacts an individual long after the fighting stops. It would be a fantastic book to pair with other perspectives of the war or novels about other global conflicts. However, the book can certainly be a standalone novel study. It offers a rich, textured presentation of war, and presents those dramatic events not just as episodes relegated to the past but as still living experiences that animate the present.

Classroom Applications

  • Cross-curricular Study – Teach the novel in conjunction with a nonfiction study of World War II. It could focus on different perspectives and/or theaters of war.
  • Literature Circles – Use the novel as part of a study about World War II, especially one that focuses on multiple perspectives of the war.
  • Book Pairing – Pair the book with another novel about World War II, such as Allies by Alan Gratz, to create a thought-provoking unit that captures multiple perspectives on this global conflict.

Nonfiction Connections: The list below outlines topics that will enrich your students’ understanding of the novel.

  • WWII
  • D-Day
  • WWII Veterans

Book Companions: The following are great books to pair with War Stories. In parenthesis are the specific aspects students could explore when synthesizing across the texts.

  • Allies by Alan Gratz (Character Connections, Nonfiction Connections, Themes)
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Character Connections, Nonfiction Connections, Themes)
  • Grenade by Alan Gratz (Character Connections, Nonfiction Connections, Themes)
  • Farewell to Manzanar by James D. Houston and Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston (Character Connections, Nonfiction Connections, Themes)
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne (Character Connections, Nonfiction Connections, Themes)
  • Night by Elie Wiesel (Character Connections, Nonfiction Connections, Themes)
  • On the Horizon by Lois Lowry (Nonfiction Connections, Themes)

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