Douglas Wood has brought to life a pivotal moment in world history through his book Franklin and Winston: A Christmas That Changed the World. He covers the historical facts accurately and humorously while describing Prime Minister Churchill’s visit to the White House during Christmas 1941. Children will certainly enjoy this peek into a president’s life with everything from friendship and feasts to speeches and schemes. In the end, the visit was a success. The United States agreed to an alliance with Great Britain for the duration of the war. Indeed, this vacation (of sorts) marked a turning point in the progress of the Allied Powers which allowed them to save the world from the tyranny of war.

This engaging book is made even more delightful with Barry Moser’s incredibly detailed watercolor illustrations. He has painted portraits of Churchill and Roosevelt both as children and adults, and he effectively depicts the antics of both world leaders. Additionally, his representations of naval ships, Japanese war planes, and U. S. airplanes are impeccable and draw the reader into the era of World War II. The final full-page illustration of Harry Hopkins’ letter to Mrs. Churchill brings a satisfying end to an exciting journey back in time.

How could you use this book in a unit on World War II? Additionally, would you find this story useful when teaching about courage and friendship?

This weekend, we are reading Franklin and Winston: A Christmas That Changed the World written by Douglas Wood and illustrated by Barry Moser. This colorful picture book is a delightfully historic account of the Christmas that United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill shared in 1941. That December, just after the Japanese attack on the Pearl Harbor naval base, Churchill traveled to Washington, D.C. to visit with the president. Churchill and Roosevelt spent the holiday making war plans. In this book, Wood chronicles both the political debates and festive escapades at the White House that Christmas.

I know most people don’t enjoy learning about history, but this book offers an enjoyable viewpoint. Read it yourself, and tell me what you think of Christmas in 1941.

Originally published in 1942, Gertrude Chandler Warner writes a wonderfully suspenseful story of four orphaned children. Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden are supposed to live with their grandfather, Mr. Alden, after their parents die, but they have never met Mr. Alden and are afraid of him. So, they decide to run away and live by themselves. On a rainy night in the woods, Jessie finds an abandoned boxcar, and the children soon decide to keep house in it.

As a child, I was inspired and a little frightened at the Alden’s exploits. The thought of living in the woods and taking care of my siblings without my mother or father to help me was just about the scariest thing I could think of. Yet, the Alden children never seemed worried about finding food or making money. Every day, Henry would do odd jobs for Dr. Moore and bring home food whenever he could. Every day, Jessie and Violet would work to keep the boxcar clean and prepare meals. The children’s resourcefulness is amazing, and even when Violet becomes very ill, you know that everything will be alright.

Modern children who read this book will likely be astonished at all of the things the Aldens are capable of doing. Henry gladly works to organize a hopelessly disorganized garage. Jessie can cook a whole meal over a fire. Violet can sew by hand. Benny never complains about any of the chores his older siblings give him. Considering that the story is set in the early 1940s during World War II this is not really as unlikely as it seems. Readers will learn that children during this time were expected to similar tasks every day or whenever necessary. The Boxcar Children is a perfect book to integrate into a unit concerning American history or World War II.