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Post-WWII Children's Literature

            The brightly colored propaganda posters of WWII provided a non-threatening way to present the war to the American public, and inspired a way for children to participate in the war effort. This tradition of including children as part of the Second World War has carried over in the preservation of memory via late twentieth and early twenty-first century children’s literature. Authors of children’s literature who write about World War II often includes some reference to the victory garden. Some authors focus particularly on this point, and create stories around the World War II victory garden.[1] In other cases, authors prefer instead to include victory gardens as a minor detail in the larger construct of the narrative.[2] In either case, victory gardens provide a safe and appropriate platform to teach children about the significance of the Second World War, without focusing upon the gruesome and devastating events that occurred during the war. Much of the children’s literature introducing WWII through victory gardens, have young girls as the main character, and therefore have a readership made up of girls between the ages of 6-11 years old. Thus the stories present a sanitized version of what actually happened during World War II, and focus on life and the growing of vegetable gardens as a way to help the war effort, instead of dwelling on death and destruction that accompanies war. Even with this safer and more appropriate lens, the authors of children literature do bring up the hardships that the home front had to face, such as having fathers and brothers away at war, coping with rationing, and dealing with air raid blackouts. Since these children’s books are works of fiction, they tend to promote the positive memory surrounding World War II as the “good war”, when the entire country pulled together to fight the evil enemy, instead of dwelling on the bloodshed and horrors of war, and the problems that our country actually faced at the time.

            Children’s literature has helped preserve and perpetuate the legacy and memory surrounding the World War II victory garden in present day. These children’s books have helped preserve the memory as to why the victory garden matters to historical study. Victory gardens were not important because of the how much food they produced, rather, they were important because of the idea that they reflected. The idea that gardening and having access to food, especially food that Americans produced on their own, demonstrated the highest form of freedom and independence; it meant that we were not an oppressed people, slaves to the want of food, rather gardens showed that Americans had freedom from want. Victory gardens are significant to historical analysis because of their ideological importance. Victory gardens provided a way for any willing citizen to help win the war. The United States government assured the home front population that their participation in the victory garden program was beneficial to the war effort and did have an important impact on the outcome of the war. In addition, it provided the home front with a task to keep their minds occupied so that they did not worry about their family members, who were away fighting in the war. Victory gardens are important because of the emotional stability that they provided during a difficult point in American history. Tilling the land and tending the garden was a way to relieve stress through physical exertion and gardens were something else to focus on instead of constantly worrying about the safety of family members who were far away. Children’s literature is able to capture this idea and the patriotic spirit of WWII. At times children’s literature may come off as overly nostalgic, or seem to buy too much into the myths surrounding World War II, however, children’s literature does something that other types of literature, and other sources that historians examine, do not do. Children’s literature remembers a piece of history that is all too often ignored, or lost in the more prominent, popular, or noteworthy large scale political affairs, and world events of World War II. Children’s literature dares to say that victory gardens did matter, even as most historians cast them aside.


Exhibit 1. The Time of the Garden: Government-Endorsed Gardening Past and Present

WWII Government-Endorsed Gardening

Post-WWII Government-Endorsed Gardening


Exhibit 3. A Study in Victory Gardens: Recollections Through Popular Culture

WWII Popular Culture

Post-WWII Victory Gardens in Popular Culture



[1] Bonnie Hinman, Jennie’s War (Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour Publishing Inc., 2005).

Lee Kochenderfer, The Victory Garden (New York: Random House Children’s books, 2009).

Deborah Kogan Ray, My Daddy Was a Soldier: A World War II Story (New York:
 Holliday House, 1990).

Helen L. Wilbur, Lilly’s Victory Garden (Arbor, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2010).

Richard Panchyk, World War II for Kids (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, Inc., 2002).

Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt, Great World war II Projects (Chicago: Nomad Press, 2006).

[2] Catherine Gourley, Welcome to Molly's World: 1944 Growing Up in World War II
(Middleton, WI: American Girl Publishing, Inc., 1999).

Valerie Tripp, Meet Molly (Middleton, WI: Pleasant Company Publications, 2000).