History Comics: World War II | Review
History Comics: World War II: Fight on the Home Front
Written by Kate Hannigan, art by Josh Rosen
First Second, $21.99 (hardcover), $12.99 (paperback)
Publisher’s rating: Ages 9-13
The book’s subtitle is key to understanding how this non-fiction history graphic novel is different from other stories of World War II. History Comics: World War II: Fight on the Home Front tells stories of those living through the early 1940s in the United States, with special focus on women, kids, and people of color.
There are plenty of statistics—the country’s population, how many were affected by various policies, the numbers of soldiers and volunteers—to make this book educational, but it’s the stories of how the workforce changed, for example, that hit home. Details of daily life make the history personal.
The illustrations are cartoony, which feels welcoming. The various kid narrators are easy to identify with. The book is effectively an illustrated essay, with the text carrying the weight of educating the reader, but that’s necessary to make the points clear and the history understandable. The book starts with the facts, the attack on Pearl Harbor and which nations were fighting which, but mentions of, for example, kids dropping out of school and married teachers allowed to work again are more relatable.
Although the history is generally presented in an upbeat light, unfair policies are mentioned too, from unequal pay for women or Black workers to military racism and the Japanese American internments. The Four Freedoms speech, which gets a page, is worth remembering in itself. History Comics: World War II is full of moments like that. Victory gardens, scrap collecting, Junior Red Cross volunteers, war bonds, Rosie the Riveter, food rationing, war correspondents, and blackouts, all give an idea what daily life was like during that time.
A number of diary and letter excerpts continue the theme of focusing on the individual and personal. There’s death, too, as men write letters home but never make it back. The concentration camps and atomic bombs are described. There’s a final section on the aftermath of the war, how the home front was changed, which could have been a book in itself. There’s so much covered here that readers may want to pay special attention to the “Where You Can Learn More” page of references to dive deeper into the topics.
Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages ComicsWorthReading.com, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
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