We’re in this together! V for victory! The onset of World War II brought a whole new way of life to the United States, one that affected everyone in many different ways. The latest addition to First Second’s History Comics series, World War II: Fight on the Home Front, written by Kate Hannigan with art by Josh Rosen, details the realities of living in America during that unprecedented time.
Readers meet a group of everyday American kids, learning to live without ice cream as part of the nation’s pursuit of freedom around the world. These kids act as the graphic novel’s narrators, taking us through the beginning of the United States joining the war as Allies after the attack on Pearl Harbor to the country’s final act of war in the atomic bomb, causing the destruction and death of thousands of Japanese citizens. The book dedicates some focus to the facts of the war overseas, but doesn’t act necessarily as a full picture of the entire global conflict. Instead, readers learn what daily life was like for the folks not fighting on the frontlines.
History Comics: World War II is full of nonstop facts. Young readers will learn the realities of rationing and how it affected Americans’ diets and cooking habits. Real recipes are even included for anyone wanting to taste the era! They’ll learn about changes in culture, like how the war popularized paperback books and superhero comics, when some of the Marvel and DC superheroes still popular today made their debuts. These facts and how they still affect our nation today could make for some spirited discussions amongst readers, especially when compared to the ongoing division of the last few years of the country’s history.
While there is a lot of fun trivia to be learned, Hannigan and Rosen don’t shy away from the uglier realities of the American homefront during the war. Readers get a brief history on Japanese-Americans being forced into internment camps, leaving everything but one bag behind. Racism against Black Americans and Latino Americans continued even as these citizens stepped up to fight for their country. Due to the intended audience and focus of the book, while these topics are included, the subjects aren’t covered in extreme depth. However, this is the case for everything included in the graphic novel, as it is an overview of the period. Hannigan provides additional resources for readers looking to learn more at the book’s end.
Rosen’s art reflects the tone of the particular topic at hand throughout the book. Familiar faces and scenes are recognizable without being too on the nose or comical. The characters are diverse in race, body, and ability, which will help young readers understand how this time affected everyone in the nation. Many primary sources are used alongside Hannigan’s writing; there are excerpts from personal letters and newspapers throughout the book. These are given as much consideration on the page as everything else, making the facts come alive and feel much more personal.
While there’s no shortage of WWII focused books for young readers, World War II: Fight on the Home Front is a welcome addition to the genre with its unique focus on the average American citizen. A variety of topics are covered, as well as how they affected life after wartime too, so readers looking for more detailed stories about the war itself and its atrocities may find the book too general. Still, Fight on the Home Front is an excellent addition to classrooms and libraries, with lots of potential for activities, discussions, and further reading.
History Comics: World War II: Fight on the Home Front
By Kate Hannigan
Art by Josh Rosen
Macmillan First Second, 2023
Publisher Age Rating: 9-13
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)