This post may contain affiliate links.

Liturature Unit Study: My Secret War – The World War II Diary of Madeline Beck

World War II Unit StudySubmitted by Dawn A.

Library List:
My Secret War – The World War II Diary of Madeline Beck by Mary Pope Osborne
Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
A Fence Away from Freedom: Japanese Americans & World War II by Ellen Levine – 1st hand accounts of youth and teenagers who endured internment camps during WWII.
Eleanor Roosevelt – A Life of Discovery by Russell Freedman – A Newberry Honor Book.
The Moved-Outers by Florence Crannel Means – a Newberry Honor Roll Book about the Japanese Internment camps during WWII
Journey to Topaz by Yoshiko Uchida
Any of Molly books from American Girl

As this is a diary, entries are made by date. I have attempted to notate relatable sections of the diary to the activities recommended. By no means is this list of possible activities meant to be done 100%; instead it should be large and varied enough to allow families to choose activities that interest and best suit their needs.


-Mr. O’Malley quoted from a newspaper column written by Eleanor Roosevelt. “Mrs. Roosevelt wants all Americans to ‘pledge to be a little thoughtful every day about the meaning of freedom.'” Think about what freedom means to you. Find a way to express your thoughts to others. Write a poem, song, or story to express yourself. Share your expression. (12-5-41)
-Write and perform a radio script that may have been heard by Madeline and Johnny.
-Maddie writes quite a bit to her father, but on April 4th, 1942, she laments “But then I haven’t written him in a while, either. I have to buckle down . . .” Is there someone that you should write a letter to? Sit down and write them a note. (4-4-42)
-Choose your favorite character in the book with the exception of the main character Maddie. Write three diary entries from their perspective.

Choose one of the following:
Franklin Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt
Tojo – the Premier of Japan
Mary Pope Osborne, the author
Read biographical information about one of these people. Share what you found.

World War II Notebooking Page #1

World War II Notebooking Page #2

-Create a timeline of Madeline Beck’s life as portrayed in her diary. Make at least 10 entries. Research WWII. Add at least five more entries to your timeline that are not mentioned in the book.
-Make a poster that shows and explains the differences (appearance and usage) of an aircraft carrier, battleship, cruiser, destroyer, submarine and German u-boat (10-19-41 & 12-29-41)
-President Roosevelt proclaims a National Day of Prayer on 1-1-42. What does this mean? When else has a National Day of Prayer been proclaimed?
-Make a list of the allied and axis countries of WWII. (1-1-42)
-Find out who Rosie the Riveter is. Write a compare and contrast report about her vs. the women of today. (1-28-42)
-Maddie believes she met the Germans on Long Island. Find a newspaper article from the time period that relates to the Germans reaching our shores. (6-12-42)
-Research one battle of World War II. Create a model to show what occurred.
-Research the ranks in the military. Write them in ascending order.

-This book is sprinkled with locations of the war and other important events. Find a map (be sure that you have one that is accurate for the 1940’s) and locate the following places:

Dad’s ship leaves from San Francisco (9-29-41)
Mrs. Rosenthal & Clara are refugees from Germany (10-11-41)
US Navy delivered war material to Russia and Great Britain (10-14-41)
Hitler’s army was in: Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France. (10-20-41)
Her father has been located in California, New Hampshire, Virginia, Florida, Panama, and Far Rockaway. (10-20-41)
Is Dad going to fight in the Pacific? (11-9-42)
Theo told Madeline to “keep an eye on Japan.” (11-24-41)
The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor. (12-7-41)
Mussolini of Italy declares war on the US. (12-11-41)
Manila, the capital of the Philippines, fell to the Japanese. (1-6-42)
The Japanese had taken over Wake Island, Guam, and Hong Kong (1-9-42)
The Japanese troops attacked Bataan – (3-26-42)
Johnny added more Japanese flags to his map: Papua and New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Burma and all of Borneo. (4-2-42)
Maddie and her mother plan a train trip from New York City to Chicago and then finally to San Francisco. (7-22-42)

-Madeline is touched by Eleanor Roosevelt words, “You are going to have a great opportunity. There will be high moments in which your strength and ability will be tested. I have faith in you.” This quote so inspires her that she writes it down and posts it on her wall. Create a poster of your favorite inspiration quote and post it up. (12-8-41)
-Sew a dress for a doll or for yourself (12-18-41)
-Maddie and Johnny decided that they should make special insignias for people that help in the war effort. Create special awards or cards to give to people in your community that help others and deliver them. (2-22-1942)
-Learn about a victory garden (3-7-1942). Plant your own victory garden. If you are short on space or it is winter consider a container garden or spice garden.
-Draw, paint, or sculpt a character or setting from the book using the descriptions found in the book.

-The K3F club puts together a calisthenics program. Research calisthenics and create a program for yourself. Follow it for 1 week. (4-1-42)
-Maddie recounts a recital where she forgot all the planned steps and just danced as she pleased. She said she felt like a wind chime. Choose a piece of music and create a dance of your own. Perform it for someone else. (4-4-1942)

VOCABULARY – Look up each of the following words and be sure that you understand what they mean. Write a sentence using each of the words. As this is a long list, you may want to break it into several sections depending on how long you are planning to spend on the unit study.

Exploratory (11-14-41)
Maneuvers (11-14-41)
Negotiations (11-28-41)
Envoy (11-29-41)
Ominous (12-3-41)
Declarations (12-8-41)
Sabotage (12-8-41)
Inspirational (12-8-41)
Infamy (12-9-41)
Premeditated (12-9-41)
Coincidence (2-2-42)
Censored (12-13-41)
Infantile (12-21-41)
Alliance (1-1-42)
Rendezvous (1-1-42)
Periscope (1-18-42
Sympathizers (3-3-42)
Arsenals (3-4-42)
Calisthenics (4-1-42)
Munitions (4-14-42)
Resignation (5-19-42)
Waylay (6-21-42)
Saboteur (6-21-42 – later)
Theoretical (6-23-1942 – later)
Recuperating (6-28-42)

-Explain what Theo meant by her description of Hitler as a “deadly microbe” (12-12-41)

-Pick one of the following songs to listen to:
Freddy Martin and his Orchestra – “To Each his own”
Harry James Orchestra – “You Made Me Love You”
Bing Crosby – “Junk Ain’t No Junk No More” (4-21-42)

-Choose one of the following:
o a World War II veteran
o an immigrant from another country
o a refugee from another country
Attend a speech given by one of the people in these categories or arrange for a personal interview. You may be surprised to find people from these categories in your very own family.

Choose one of the following movies and watch it:
Citizen Kane (10-18-41)
Pearl Harbor (12-7-41) – NOTE: This is rated R, but due primarily to the violence which is a reality of war. I would suggest that you watch it first to decide if it is appropriate for your children.
Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front

-Cook and serve a Thanksgiving Dinner. Be sure to share all that you are thankful for (11-27-41)
-Blackouts were scary, but the crew at the Mansion-by-the-Sea were comforted by Mrs. Hawkins Blueberry Pie. Find a good recipe and bake a Blueberry Pie (4-24-42)
-Due to the war rationing, sugar was hard to come by. Therefore, Mom had to make a sugarless dessert called a “war recipe”. The recipe is in the back of the book. Bake it and try it. How does it compare to what you are used to? What did the recipe use in lieu of sugar for its sweetness? (5-17-42)

-Mrs. Rosenthal sometimes “talks to herself in German”. Learn to count to ten in German and at least 5 other helpful phrases (i.e. hello, goodbye, thank you) (11-11-41
-Create a code letter like Johnny and Maddie did. See if someone else can “read” it. (1-16-42)

-Maddie is very surprised on her 10-25-41 entry to find out that Clara and her mother are Jewish. If you are not Jewish, try to find someone who is to discuss the similarities and difference in your beliefs. If you are Jewish, find a Christian to compare and contrast with.

Mom reprimands Madeline for not being charitable and thinking of the sacrifice of others. Find two scriptures that Mom could have used in her argument. (10-11-41)
Johnny and Maddie decide not to tell anyone about their part in the solving the crime. Maddie writes “Isn’t that what you learn in church – Do good works for their own sake and not for a reward?” To what scriptures might she be referring? (7-9-42)

-There are many times in the book when Maddie, her mother, and the K3F club give of their time. Find a worthy cause that you can help. Either raise money to donate to the cause or find a way that you can donate your time to them.
-Johnny and Maddie came up with a motto for their club: “Victory does not come without a price”. Learn about what a motto is and create a motto for your homeschooling group. They also choose a “guiding light” quotation. Find a quote or scripture that your family can use. (2-13-1942 – Later).

Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial – Hawaii
WWII National Monument – Washington DC
The National WWII museum – New Orleans, LA
Wright Museum – America at War – 1939-1945 – The Home Front – Wolfboro, NH
National WASP WWII Museum- Sweetwater, TX (WASP means Women Service Airforce Pilots)
Eldred WWII Museum – Eldred, PA