Book Review: Women Heroes of World War II

Complete Title:  WOMEN HEROES OF WORLD WAR II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue (Women of Action)

Author: Kathryn J. Atwood

Publisher: Chicago Review Press, 2011

Genre: Young Adult History

I have read (and enjoyed) several novels set in World War II this year. However, it made me realize that I’m not as knowledgeable about the war as I thought I was. I started reading one of Winston Churchill’s memoirs on the war, but I decided I needed a different approach. When Amazon offered a “kindle daily deal” the other day on World War II, I took it. I’ve been absorbing Women Heroes of World War II every day since.

This book is actually a young adult, so it turned out to be the right level for me. I didn’t want to become an expert on the subject. I wanted a good summary of the war. This book gave me that and I also got a bonus. The author highlighted twenty-six women who were heroes of the war.

The book is divided into chapters based on eight countries involved in the European side of the war: Germany, Poland, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Great Britain, and the United States. The Soviet union was not covered.

Each chapter contains a good summary of the war as it affected that country. The style of when and what happened was very simple but thorough. I found that so valuable. I liked how Ms. Atwood focused information about the war for each country. Each chapter also highlighted women who performed amazing feats to help others during the war. All of those feats were extremely dangerous and many of these heroes lost their lives in the process. Here, from the publisher’s description, is a small sample of the women and girls highlighted:

Noor Inayat Khan was the first female radio operator sent into occupied France and transferred crucial messages. Johtje Vos, a Dutch housewife, hid Jews in her home and repeatedly outsmarted the Gestapo. Law student Hannie Schaft became involved in the most dangerous resistance work–sabotage, weapons transference, and assassinations.

My only complaint about the book was some occasional poor editing. Some of the sentences were quite clumsy. I knew what the author meant to say but it should have been caught by good editing. Overall, I can happily recommend this nice, simple reference book to others in need of an explanation of World War II. I liked the pictures of the heroes, the glossary, and the overall organization of the book. I now want to read even more novels set in this time period.

The publisher suggested this book for grades 5 to 12 but I think it’s appropriate for adults like me.


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5 Responses to Book Review: Women Heroes of World War II

  1. kelley says:

    I think I would like the book as well. Thanks for the tip.

  2. Beth F says:

    Too bad there wasn’t a more careful editor, but it sounds like a good overview.

  3. Staci says:

    Your review was great and I might have to add this one to my Middle School library. The kids really like to read non-fiction and WWII is of huge interest to them.

  4. Aarti says:

    Ugh, I hate poor editing! But I think this subject matter sounds important enough that I would muddle through, anyway. I am glad women are starting to get much more credit for all they did!

  5. Despite the clumsy writing at times, it sounds like a worthwhile read. Like you, I turn to middle grade and YA books when I need some introduction. I think nearly every book I read for the Civil War challenge last year was in that category, but I learned so much.

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