War Stories

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
War Stories Book Poster Image
Lively, nuanced D-Day story of tween and war hero.

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age 11+
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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Packed with historical detail about World War II and D-Day, as seen through eyes of teen infantryman who eventually becomes an old man reliving it all with his rapt grandson. A lot about defeating Hitler and the whole world joining forces against evil -- as well as the fact that the day-to-day reality was often random, stupid, dirty, and annoying when it wasn't actually lethal. French Resistance is important to the story, as is military strategy.

Positive Messages

Strong messages of family, friendship, loyalty, responsibility, courage, quick thinking. Also of being able to change your mind when you learn more facts, and to see things from other people's viewpoint, which may be quite different from your own. Split-second acts of kindness have long-term effects.

Positive Role Models & Representations

War-obsessed Trevor adores his war hero great-grandfather, and the two are best buds. As story unfolds, both face a lot of past trauma and complex realities, which tests their bond and also leaves them kinder and wiser. Trevor's dad, a mild-mannered teacher, abhors violence and tries to protect both his son and his grandfather from trouble. In the past, G.G.'s war buddy Beau proves a true, lifelong friend.


Jacob makes his way through Normandy in wake of D-Day; deadly combat is a regular occurrence, random death is commonplace -- e.g., just when he's envying soldiers in a Sherman tank, a shell incinerates the tank and all on board. Two of his close friends are vaporized by explosions. As a result of a mistake he makes, a family is killed -- and now their descendants are seeking revenge. During the war, an artillery officer blows up a house in a town they're passing through just because he can. In boot camp, Jacob sabotages a rival team by bribing the kitchen staff to load their food with salt before a race so they get dehydrated.


Numerous references to latrines, and the fact that having to run to the bathroom constantly because of digestive issues gets to be a real nuisance on the battlefield. "The brass hats loved their code names," G.G. recalls. "In my unit, we said every time you went to the latrine it was Operation Look Out Below. And that was the polite version."


Occasional mention of real brands and services, including Instagram, Facebook, a Mercury-brand car, Starbucks.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that War Stories, by bestselling author Gordon Korman, is the story of Trevor Firestone, a 12-year-old obsessed with World War II, and his 93-year-old great-grandfather Jacob, known as G.G., who was a 17-year-old infantryman at the time of D-Day and is now a war hero. Trevor's dad worries about his son's fondness for video-game mayhem and destruction, fueled by Jacob's stories. He also worries that, as the family heads to France for a ceremony honoring the old man, things may not be quite what they seem, and somebody's posting a lot of threats on Facebook. As the present-day Firestones revisit boot camp and then head to Europe, G.G.'s recollections bring the whole experience to life: the moments of heroic triumph, as well as lots of loss, hardship, and latrine humor. The story is packed with local color, historic detail, and lots of empathy about how epic events actually felt to people at the time.

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Teen, 13 years old Written byEthanDaMonster November 10, 2020

What's the story?

Twelve-year-old Trevor Firestone adores his 93-year-old great-grandfather Jacob, a decorated World War II veteran who tells a lot of WAR STORIES. Trevor plasters his room with combat posters and spends all his time blowing up armaments and buildings in video games based on the conflict. When word comes that the French village once liberated by Jacob's unit wants to honor him at a ceremony, Trevor is in heaven over the chance to revisit the sites of all these exploits. As they make their way from boot camp through training bases and the Normandy countryside, Jacob's recollections bring the past (sometimes heroic, sometimes just stupid and gross) to life. Meanwhile, though, Trevor's dad is worried, because somebody who doesn't seem to share their enthusiasm is posting nasty remarks and threats on the village's Facebook page.

Is it any good?

Master storyteller Gordon Korman packs a lot of history and wisdom into this nuanced tale of battle, memory, and family. There's more to war than blowing up buildings and bad guys, as 12-year-old Trevor discovers when he revisits D-Day, on location, with his great-grandfather, a decorated veteran. War Stories offers alternating chapters of Jacob Firestone, 17-year-old infantryman trying to survive and also beat Hitler, and of Trevor's impressions as the family makes its way through Normandy and he learns about a lot of tragedy, loss, and foolishness that happened right along with the heroics. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about World War II and its effects on the lives of people caught up in it. How does War Stories compare with other stories you know about that era? Does it give you a different view of those events?

  • Have you ever heard a story of events you've actually lived through -- and found that it's very different from your own experience? How does that make you feel?

  • Do you have family members who had interesting adventures in the past? What did they do? Do you think you'd like to do the same things, or are you happy to avoid the whole experience?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love World War II stories and coming-of-age tales

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