I know this is very much an eat-your-peas-because-there-are-kids-in-China-that-are-suffering strategy that kids hate, but I began to tell them about this girl's story. Lina. Thrown from her house. Trapped on a train with dying people as she is shunted to a work-farm in Siberia where she is practically starved. Then forced to leave the boy she loves (it is very romantic!!!) to go as close to the North Pole as you can get to basically die.
But there is always hope, and Lina's story is all about hope. Hope and love and humanity. Despite the fact that over 20 million people died during Stalin's reign of terror, more than were killed in the Holocaust, there is hope and love and humanity on this earth.
My kids were amazed. They couldn't believe the stories of the Soviet army's brutality. They couldn't believe people could have it so hard. Real people.
And they stopped fighting. For just a minute or two, but it got them thinking, and that's what we want, right? To think. And think, and think some more. And help our kids think too.
I highly recommend Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.