Books That Honor the International Day of Peace

Storytelling is one of the greatest tools we have for creating empathy between cultures around the world. Readers can meet characters, enter environments, and see perspectives they never would have encountered if not for authors. This year, to honor the International Day of Peace on September 21, gather friends and family for a book club discussion dedicated to fostering a more peaceful society. Keep scrolling to check out some of our favorite reads to International Day of Peace YA books.

Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez

ONE OF TIME MAGAZINE’S 100 BEST YA BOOKS OF ALL TIME! This is the story of Anita de la Torre, who never questioned her freedom in the Dominican Republic. But by her twelfth birthday in 1960, most of her relatives have immigrated to the United States, and the government’s secret police terrorize her remaining family because of their suspected opposition to the government. Before We Were Free is a fictional story about adolescence, perseverance, and a young girl’s struggle living under the rule of a dictator. This book will take you back to the 1960s to explore the importance of family and the true meaning of freedom.

Before We Were Free

Before We Were Free

By Julia Alvarez

Anita de la Torre never questioned her freedom living in the Dominican Republic. But by her twelfth birthday in 1960, most of her relatives have immigrated to the United States, her Tío Toni has disappeared without a trace, and the government’s secret police terrorize her remaining family because of their suspected opposition to Trujillo’s iron-fisted rule. Using the strength and courage of her family, Anita must overcome her fears and fly to freedom, leaving all that she once knew behind.

“A stirring work of art.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“A realistic and compelling account of a girl growing up too quickly while coming to terms with the cost of freedom.” —The Horn Book, Starred Review

“Diary entries written by the child while in hiding will remind readers of Anne Frank’s story. . . . Readers will bite their nails as the story moves to its inexorable conclusion.” —SLJ

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

This moving piece of historical fiction is the perfect choice for the International Day of Peace and the Jewish high holy days that occur every September. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas takes us back to the Holocaust, following the story of two eight-year-old boys: Bruno, the son of a Nazi commander, and a young Jewish prisoner he befriends. After reading, you can experience the movie adaptation with your family. This story is a reminder of the importance of working toward a peaceful world where the dignity of all human life is respected.

The Boy In the Striped Pajamas (Movie Tie-in Edition)

The Boy In the Striped Pajamas (Movie Tie-in Edition)

By John Boyne

Berlin 1942
When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.

But Bruno longs to be an explorer an...

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

The #1 New York Times bestselling book turned major motion picture Just Mercy is the true story of Walter McMillian, who was sentenced to death in Alabama for the murder of a teenage girl in 1988. His trial lasted only two days. Just Mercy focuses on the fight to end mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and racial inequality. Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, offers readers an emotionally complex journey into the lives of the wrongfully imprisoned. Stevenson’s efforts to fight for their freedom are inspirational. This book is not only perfect to read with your friends, but after you finish the book, you can all come together and watch the movie adaptation featuring acclaimed performances from Michael B. Jordan and Oscar winners Jaime Foxx and Brie Larson.

Just Mercy (Movie Tie-In Edition, Adapted for Young Adults)

Just Mercy (Movie Tie-In Edition, Adapted for Young Adults)

By Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson’s incredible fight to end mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and racial inequality comes to life in this young adult adaptation of the acclaimed, #1 New York Times bestseller that was adapted into a major motion picture starring Michael B. Jordan, Jaime Foxx, and Brie Larson.

In this very personal work–adapted from the original #1 bestseller, which the New York Times calls “as compelling as To Kill a Mockingbird, and in some ways more so”–renowned lawyer and social justice advocate Bryan Stevenson offers a glimpse into the lives of the wrongfully imprisoned and his efforts to fight for their freedom as the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.

Stevenson’s story is one of working to protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society–the poor, the wrongly convicted, and those whose lives have been marked by discrimination and marginalization. Through this adaptation, young people of today will find themselves called to action and compassion in the pursuit of justice. A portion of the proceeds of this book will go to charity to help in Stevenson’s important work to benefit the voiceless and the vulnerable as they attempt to navigate the broken U.S. justice system.

Left for Dead by Peter Nelson

If you are a fan of adventure, war stories, true stories, and sea battles, Left for Dead by Peter Nelson is our pick for you. Left for Dead is the epic true story of a boy, Hunter Scott, who helps to bring closure to the survivors of the tragic sinking of the USS Indianapolis and exonerate the ship’s captain. Hunter Scott first learned about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis by watching the movie Jaws when he was just eleven years old. This dramatic read shows the power of youth and of standing up for justice. Grab some popcorn and take the weekend to rewatch Jaws to get into our protagonist’s mindset. Then read Left for Dead for an immersive trip into this forgotten piece of American history.

Left for Dead

Left for Dead

By Peter Nelson

Hunter Scott first learned about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis by watching the movie Jaws when he was just eleven-years-old. This was fifty years after the ship had sunk, throwing more than 1,000 men into shark-infested waters—a long fifty years in which justice still had not been served.

It was just after midnight on July 30, 1945 when the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. Those who survived the fiery sinking—some injured, many without life jackets—struggled to stay afloat as they waited for rescue. But the United States Navy did not even know they were missing. As time went on, the Navy needed a scapegoat for this disaster. So it court-martialed the captain for “hazarding” his ship. The survivors of the Indianapolis knew that their captain was not to blame. For fifty years they worked to clear his name, even after his untimely death.
But the navy would not budge—not until Hunter entered the picture. His history fair project on the Indianapolis soon became a crusade to restore the captain’s good name and the honor of the men who served under him.

Refugees by Catherine Stine

In the dark shadow of September 11, 2001, two teenagers on opposite sides of the globe flee everything they know. Sixteen-year-old Dawn runs away from her unhappy foster home in California and travels to New York City. Johar, an Afghani teenager, sees his world crumble before him. He flees his war-ravaged village and the Taliban to trek to a refugee camp in Pakistan. Through emails and phone calls, Dawn and Johar begin to share and protect each other’s secrets, fears, and dreams. This book explores the intense struggle to cope with tragedy, rebuild families, and discover the power that exists inside each one of us. The bond between Dawn and Johar offers hope and courage to readers and will encourage impactful discussions about the longest American war in history.

Refugees

Refugees

By Catherine Stine

September 11, 2001

Two teenagers on opposite sides of the globe flee everything they know. In a world turned upside down by tragedy, they are refugees.

Sixteen-year-old Dawn runs away from her unhappy foster home in California and travels to New York City. Johar, an Afghani teenager, sees his world crumble before him. He flees his war-ravaged village and the Taliban, and makes a dangerous trek to a refugee camp in Pakistan. Thanks to h...

Shattered by Jennifer Armstrong

Shattered is a powerful story of war, bringing together twelve unique and powerful voices that explore the realities of war from a child’s perspective. The settings vary widely—the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, an attempted coup in Venezuela, the American Civil War, and the Middle East—but the effects are largely the same. In war, no life is left untouched, and many are shattered. This collection examines all of war’s implications for young people—from those caught in the line of fire to the children of the veterans of wars long past. Shattered will not only educate us on the immediate and long-term effects of war, it will also have you on the edge of your seat. You’ll be laughing and crying through this captivating page-turner.

Shattered

Shattered

By Jennifer Armstrong

As bullets ring and bombs are dropped, children watch—mostly from the sidelines, but occasionally in the direct line of fire. Unaware of the political issues or power struggles behind the battle, all they know are the human, emotional consequences of this thing called war. This collection examines all of war’s implications for young people—from those caught in the line of fire to the children of the veterans of wars long past.

Crit...

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