On My Bookshelf: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

June 06, 2016

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, a nonfiction biography, reads like a great narrative. Louis Zamperini survives unbelievable odds as a POW during WWII. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
The basic plot: Louis Zamperini is born in New York City and his family, Italian, moves to California when he is young. He is a hell raiser as a kid, causing trouble where ever he goes, worrying his family, and not making many friends. Finally his older brother Pete gets him to settle down by introducing him to running, which takes Louie all the way to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. But then WWII starts and Louie gets drafted as an airman. After he and his crew crash at sea, he is captured by the Japanese and held in a series of POW camps, one worse than the next. He barely survives, but makes it back home where he struggles with PTSD, ends up married with kids, finds God, and finally has his life back together.

Why I liked it: I love historical fiction, and while this is a nonfiction biography, based on the author's extensive research and interviews, it reads like a great story. The author seamlessly blended historical facts with the narrative of one man's life.

I am also biased because the book is set in the era of my grandparents who I think were wonderful and lived through such interesting times. My grandfather, like Louie, was a WWII veteran, but served on the European front rather than the Pacific front.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, a nonfiction biography, reads like a great narrative. Louis Zamperini survives unbelievable odds as a POW during WWII. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.

Classroom application:
There are some books you have to read all of to "get it." This is not one of them. You could use chapters as short stories on a variety of themes such as survival, perseverance, determination, and heroism.

The book is filed with excellent examples of conflict. While Louie is stranded out at sea, he has conflict with one of the men stranded with him (the other guy eats all the food, person versus person). He also struggles to persevere mentally and spiritually (person versus self). Sharks surround his raft, the sea provides no fresh drinking water, and occasionally a storm blows through to really shake things up (person versus nature).

You could also bring chapters into a history classroom to supplement the textbook on topics such as the Great Depression, assimilation of immigrants, the Olympics, World War II, prisoners of war, post traumatic stress, aviation, and cultural differences/ethnocentrism.

Though I haven't seen it yet, the movie was recently released so you could also do some film/text comparisons (CCSS 7) and/or analyze for historical accuracy.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Unbroken for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

For more reading suggestions for students and teachers:



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