After a decades-long wave of blockbuster novels about wizards, vampires and dystopias, the latest trend in children's literature is surprisingly old. Historical fiction about World War II is having a renaissance.
"We're seeing more publishing on it than we ever have before," said David Levithan, the vice president and publisher of Scholastic, noting that this is a topic "that across the board is popular with kids of all ages."
"It's a story with unambiguous good guys and bad guys," he said.
This year, Scholastic is publishing seven middle-grade and young-adult novels set in the period, including Alan Gratz's "Projekt 1065," about a boy who joined the Hitler Youth as a spy, and "The Darkest Hour," Caroline Tung Richmond's novel about a teenage spy in France.
World War II has always captivated readers, and authors and publishers say the subject has the rare potential to draw men and women as well as young and old readers to a single title.
"World War II really opens up the market," said novelist Kristin Hannah, whose 2015 novel, "The Nightingale," about women in the French Resistance, has sold more than 2 million copies.
World War II stories may hold a special appeal because this was a conflict that young people got swept up in — as refugees, Resistance fighters and youth soldiers — as dire circumstances forced them to behave like adults.
When Monica Hesse was 11, her father gave her a copy of "Hitler's Willing Executioners."
Most preteens would have blanched at getting a more-than-600-page book about the Holocaust as a present. Hesse, who had read "The Diary Of Anne Frank" over and over, was riveted by it.
"My parents knew that was what I was interested in," said Hesse, 34, a feature writer for The Washington Post.
Now Hesse is hoping to hook other young readers on World War II stories with her young-adult novel, "Girl in the Blue Coat," about a teenage girl in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam who joins the underground student resistance movement.
This novel's young heroine, Hanneke, sells goods on the black market to support her family. She reluctantly agrees to help one of her customers find Mirjam, a Jewish girl who was hiding in a friend's pantry, then mysteriously disappeared. Hanneke's search for Mirjam forces her to confront her own apathy and ignorance about the atrocities that have been taking place around her.