A Knoxville Boy
Alan Gratz is an American author best known for his works in the young adult fiction genre which more often than not have historical settings.
He was born in 1972 in a town called Knoxville which is located in Tennessee.
After graduating from his local high school, he attended the University of Tennessee for his Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writing and master’s in English education.
Best Alan Gratz Books
To start off our article, I will introduce you to one of the best selling Alan Gratz books that is Refugee. It is also among the most notable works of the author besides its massive success in sales. For example, it was featured on the New York Times’s bestsellers list for three consecutive years. It also brought the author many awards including the 2017 National Jewish Book Award and the 2019-2020 Young Hoosier Book Award.
This piece tells its story in a very unique way, it features three children from different points in history as its protagonists. The three narrators do not have much in common besides the fact that they are all trying to flee from a war that has long taken over their countries. In order words, they want to be refugees. Another thing to note is that although their stories seem unrelated at first, there are so many things tying them together.
Hope and Despair
These children are named Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud. Josef is a boy who ran away from Germany in 1930 by taking a ship to the other side of the world. Isabel lives in 1994 Cuba and she is on a raft hoping to make it to America. Mahmoud is on a long road trip from 2015’s Syria to Europe. Together, they tell a story of hope and despair that without a doubt deserves a place among the best Alan Gratz books.
Carrying on with our article, the second piece that we will be taking a look at is going to be another one of the most popular Alan Gratz books. Once again, this book takes us to one of the darkest points of human history which is the holocaust. It also features a young protagonist but this time around, the protagonist is left completely alone in the cruelness of the war and there does not seem to be an easy way to escape.
The story of this piece revolves around Yanek Gruener, a Jewish boy living in 1930s Poland. Fate has not been too kind to this young man and he is already captured and imprisoned by Nazis at the start of the story. He has neither a loved one to keep him company nor any future to speak of. Most painful of all, even his sense of self is trying to be snatched away from him which is signified by the “PRISONER B-3078” tattoo on his arm.
Whatever it Takes to Survive
As the Second World War rages on and all hell breaks loose, the only objective of this young boy is to survive. His journey takes him to ten different concentration camps, each with their own evilness. There, he witnesses horrors beyond his imagination but he also manages to catch glimpses of hope that are barely enough to keep him going. His story makes for a heartbreaking contestant for the best Alan Gratz book title.
We are moving on with our article and the fourth piece that we will talk about is going to be one of the top rated Alan Gratz books, Projekt 1065: A Novel of World War II. At this point in the article, you might think that it is getting kind of bleak as all the books we talked about so far are about the Second World War. However, this piece offers us a unique protagonist that provides us with a wholly different story.
The hero of the story is Michael O’Shaunessey, a boy with Irish roots who is living with his parents in Nazi Germany. As we are introduced to him, we also learn that he is a member of the Hitler Youth along with almost all of his schoolmates. There is a catch though, and it is a pretty big one if I do say so myself. Michael and his family are all spies working for the Allies who are there to befriend and infiltrate.
In The Belly of the Beast
The story picks up its pace when the young protagonist learns about a secret Nazi war mission that is Projekt 1065. In order to learn more about the mission, he must gain the trust of his “fellows” at Hitler Youth. Given the mundane rituals of the young Nazis such as burning books and playing their games is already enough to make him disgusted, this new task will be a worthy challenge and push him to his limits.
We are nearing the halfway point of our article and the fourth piece we will talk about is going to be Ground Zero, the latest Alan Gratz book. This piece was published in 2021 and it is the latest work of the author besides the 2023 published graphic novel “Captain America: The Ghost Army”. It is also a nice change of pace for our article as it does not talk about the Second World War but the 9/11 incident.
Similarly to the author’s most successful book which is Refugee, this novel uses more than one protagonist to tell its story. First, there is the story of nine years old Brandon who is living in New York City at the time of the incident. Brandon’s dad works at the World Trade Center and on September 11, they go to his workplace together. When the fires burst and the building shatters, they are trapped in a fiery nightmare threatening their lives.
A Harrowing Book
The second main character is Reshmina, an eleven years old Afghan girl living in the present day. She is used to war by all the meanings of the word. After all, she has grown up in its shadow and is still living surrounded by it. When she finds a wounded and young American soldier, however, she and her parents are put in great peril. These two stories make up the new Alan Gratz book that is nothing other than harrowing.
We have arrived at the middle of our article and now, we will go over one of the best rated Alan Gratz books that is Ban This Book. It is the most unique book that we had in this article so far as it neither has a historical setting nor talks about an ongoing war. Well, at least it does not talk about a literal war. What it does talk about is a war of culture and the countless book bans that invade our freedom of speech.
This piece tells us the story of Amy Anne Ollinger, a fourth grader living in the United States. One day, she visits her school library to find out that her favorite book “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” has been removed. The only reason for this devastating development was that one of her classmates’ mother had deemed the book inappropriate and requested it to be taken off the shelves.
The War Against Censorship
One thing to know about Anne is that she is no quitter and she does not just sit down and accept the bad news. After some back and forth, she decides to start her own library from her school locker. Soon after, she finds herself in a position that serves as an exemplary figure in the war against censorship. This inspiring story holds a solid place among the best Alan Gratz novels.
Next up on our Alan Gratz book list, we have another one of the most peculiar books by the author that is Grenade. I say it is peculiar because it is an unofficial sequel to his masterpiece Refugee. Despite being considered a sequel, it uses a different format from its precursor which we will get to in a second. It is also worth mentioning that it was published just a little more than a year after Refugee’s publication.
This contestant for the best Alan Gratz book title revolves around two characters, Hideki and Ray. It is the height of the Second World War and Hideki is a resident of Okinawa and is drafted into the “Blood and Iron Student Corps” while Ray is a young United States Marine deployed to the same region. One day, Hideki is given a hand grenade and a mission, to kill the American soldier named Ray.
Deciding Their Fates
Hideki is by no means an experienced combatant and it proves really challenging for him to tread the warzone. There is a trap or an ambush in every corner and his journey challenges him to survive as much as it does to kill. When the two young soldiers finally come face to face, they are provided with a set of options that have the power to impact the tides of the war in an instant.
We are carrying on with our Alan Gratz book reviews and Code of Honor is the next piece that I am going to introduce to you. With this piece, we once again stray away from the theme of the Second World War as it takes place in modern-day Arizona. One thing I want to mention about this book is that it talks about some potentially disturbing matters and it might be a little unnerving even by the author’s standards.
Kamran Smith is a teenager who is living his high school days to their fullest and is also the main character of this book’s story. He has a beautiful girlfriend and is pretty popular. He is also the star running back at his school and he is well on his way to receiving a college scholarship. His life is turned upside down when his big brother Darius who was serving in Afghanistan is declared to be a terrorist.
Nothing But Love
Darius apparently had switched sides and is responsible for the destruction of a United States embassy. Kamran loses all of his friends in an instant as they believe Darius to be completely evil. Then, he is sent to the Department of Homeland Security. Still, Karman knows his big brother and refuses to believe he would do such a thing. Thus, he sets himself on a mission to prove his brother’s innocence.
We are returning to the scene of World War II with the eighth piece in our Alan Gratz books ranked article, Allies. This piece is very similar in style to Refugee as it includes a wide array of characters who serve as narrators. Only this time around, all of the characters are working together and playing their parts in the war. So, the stories featured in this piece are not as concerned with personal dramas as others.
The story starts on the sixth of June, 1944, or D-Day as it is more commonly known. For those of you who are unfamiliar, D-Day is one of the greatest military operations in the history of our species. It was the result of inspirational leaders with brilliant minds and the infinite courage of the soldiers of the Allied nations. Thanks to them, the Allied nations established a foothold in Nazi-occupied Europe and eventually won the war.
Silent Heroes of The War
The protagonists of this piece are all people who play a role in this operation. Dee, for example, is a young U.S. soldier who is among the soldiers storming the beach. There is also Samira who lives behind the enemy lines and serves as a spy providing invaluable information. While James drops down from above in a midnight raid, Henry is saving lives on the battlefield. Together, they make up the story of this contender for the best Alan Gratz novel title.
We are coming near to the end of our search for the best novels by Alan Gratz and the ninth piece we will take a look at in this article will be The Brooklyn Nine. This piece uses a very interesting narration method to tell its stories. It tells us the stories of nine members of the Schneider family from Brooklyn, all of whom are connected to baseball in one way or the other.
The story starts with Felix Schneider who is an immigrant from Germany. He is a big fan of baseball, especially the New York Knickerbockers, and he dreams of being the fastest base runner. He also makes his own baseball which is then passed down through his lineage as it is lost and found over and over again.
Lives of Baseball Enthusiasts
Through the stories of the Schnieders, the author works his way through some of the high points of recent American history. I especially liked how these stories did not get caught up too much on being extraordinary and rather chose to focus on the daily lives of their protagonists. This piece was an exceptionally fun read and I recommend it to anyone looking for a light-hearted book.
Well, we have arrived at the end of our article and the last one of the Alan Gratz books that I have in order for you is Samurai Shortstop. Similarly to The Brooklyn Nine which we just talked about, this piece is a historical story that revolves around a sport. However, we have a singular protagonist this time around and it is a much more personal story.
At the heart of this book’s story which takes place in 1890, Tokyo is a boy named Toyo. He attends a boarding school which were known for its competitive environment and he wants to prove himself by making it to the school team for a new sport called “besuboru”. One thing holding him back is the fact that he is still grieving for his uncle, a samurai who sacrificed himself to uphold his beliefs.
The Way of The Samurai
Not seeing any other way, Toyo’s father decides to teach the young the way of the samurai with the hopes that it will help him come to terms with the death of his uncle. Not only does Toyo excel quickly, but his samurai training also helps him get better at playing baseball. This wholesome story makes Samurai Shortstop one of the best books by Alan Gratz.
While occasionally writing light-hearted stories, Alan Gratz is at his best when he is writing historical pieces. Writing about war is probably the hardest way to go about a historical fiction piece but he manages to execute them masterfully. His writings are so encapsulating that while I was reading his books, I would occasionally think that I was reading a real-life story until I snap out of it. He is definitely one of the best historical fiction writers in the game.
Alissa is an avid reader, blogger, and wannabe writer. (She's a much better cook than a writer actually). Alissa is married, has one human, one feline, and two canine kids. She always looks a mess and never meets a deadline.