The Classroom Bookshelf
Inside The Classroom Bookshelf

Courage has No Color

Written by Tanya Lee Stone
Candlewick, 2013
IBSN: 978-0-7636-5117-6

Grades 6 and Up

Book Review
The reader drops into Courage has No Color, just as thousands of soldiers dropped out of airplanes and into Europe and the Pacific region during World War II. The author carries us through the jump, from plane to ground, via both a written and visual narrative. But the ground upon which we land is not behind enemy lines in Occupied Europe or on a remote Pacific Island, but solidly in the segregated United States, where the US Army’s 555th Parachute Infantry Division, the “Triple Nickels,” was forced to remain for the duration of the war. The painful history of the Army’s first black paratrooper unit is shared with the general public for the first time in this beautiful work of nonfiction, which documents the tremendous challenges and institutional racism African-American patriots faced as enlisted soldiers during World War II, as well as the strength, tenacity, courage, and skills of the soldiers who comprised the 555th. Stone’s extensive original research over a decade includes numerous interviews and conversations with members of the Triple Nickels, now in their late 80s and early 90s. The text is supported throughout with a broad range of archival photographs and documents.  Courage has No Color can deepen curricular explorations of World War II on the Homefront and overseas, provide another perspective on the ever-changing roles filled by African-Americans in 20thcentury American culture, and shape how students understand our all-volunteer military’s current civil rights shifts, such as permitting women to serve in combat, ideally without fear of sexual aggression and abuse, and allowing openly gay soldiers to continue to perform their duties without fear of prejudice and court martial.
Teaching Ideas and Invitations
  • Exploring the Military in World War II. Courage has No Colorexplores the role of one group of African-American men during World War II. Using a literature circle approach, have students explore the book alongside other American men and women whose service in World War II was limited because of prejudice, such as Black Men and White Air Men by John Fleishman and Yankee Doodle Gals by Amy Nathan. There is no comparable middle grade or young adult nonfiction book specifically on Japanese-American soldiers, in particular the 442nd Regiment, but there are digital collections listed below that can also be explored. After focusing on these three trade books, as well as digital texts, have students examine several textbook accounts of World War II or a basic survey book on the topic. What role do the men and women they read about play in these more general accounts? Are they mentioned? Is a comprehensive history of the war possible to write?
  • Comparing Research Strategies:After reading Courage has No Color, make sure that students read “The Story Behind the Story” within the back matter. Next, have your students read a variety of entries from the Interesting Nonfiction for Kids (INK) blog. Have them compare and contrast the different approaches writers and illustrators take to complete their research, and the similarities and differences between Stone’s approach and others’.
  • How Far Have We Come? After reading Courage has No Color, have your students explore contemporary issues of equity within the military. Using some of the resources below, as well as other digital and print texts, have your students explore the recent demise of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy that prohibited gay and lesbian men and women from being out while serving in the military, and the recent termination of the ban on women in combat. Students may also want to consider the make-up of our all-volunteer force and the number of men and women of color in the military today as compared to during World War II.  
  • Oral History. To write this book, Tanya Lee Stone had to conduct many interviews with the veterans of the 555th, who are in the eighties and nineties. Have your students conduct oral histories with senior citizens in your community about their memories of World War II. Be sure to have your students read more widely about the war before establishing general research questions and specific interview questions. You might want to organize groups to interview men and women based on the different roles they played at war and on the Homefront. Decide together the best way to share their research. They may want to co-author articles with the senior citizens whom they interview, to publish a class magazine that can be donated to the school and public library. Or, students might use this as an opportunity to introduce multimodal digital composition to senior citizens in your area, working together to photograph artifacts and mementos, locate old songs, and record some of their conversations, in order to create a multimodal portrait of their memories.
  • Author Study. Have some students in class read Courage has No Color, and have others read Almost Astronauts. What are the similarities and differences in content and theme? What are some of the similarities and differences in the structures of the books? What visual narratives are created within each book? How did Stone approach her research in each? How does the author’s note and source material guide you?  What are some of the lessons in craft that they learn from her books?
Further Explorations
Digital Texts
Tanya Lee Stone Official Webpage
INK Blog: Nonfiction Writers Sharing Their Craft
The Triple Nickles Association
Walter Morris, “Experiencing the War: Stories from the Veteran’s History Project,”
The Library of Congress
“Army Honors Triple Nickles Legacy at Pentagon Ceremony,” US Army Homepage
CIA: Japanese-American Spies in World War II
Japanese-Americans in World War II, The History Channel
World War II, Library of Congress
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team Historical Society
NY Times Topic: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
NY Times Topic: Women at Arms, 2009
“Women in Combat and the Price They Pay,” NPR
Fleishman, J. (2007). Black and white airmen: Their true history.Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Nathan, A. (2002). Yankee Doodle gals: Women pilots of World War II. Washington, DC: National Geographic.
Stone, T. L. (2009). Almost astronauts. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Mary Ann Cappiello About Mary Ann Cappiello

Mary Ann is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former public school language arts and humanities teacher, she is a passionate advocate for and commentator on children’s books. Mary Ann is the co-author of Teaching with Text Sets (2013) and Teaching to Complexity (2015) and Text Sets in Action: Pathways Through Content Area Literacy (Stenhouse, 2021). She has been a guest on public radio and a consultant to public television. From 2015-2018, Mary Ann was a member of the National Council of Teachers of English's Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction (K-8) Committee, serving two years as chair.


  1. I stumbled upon your blog while I was doing some research for my own. You have great ideas and I love the books you chose to discuss. I cited you in an upcoming post on “Swirl by Swirl”. We are at

    Can't wait to see what you have planned for the next post!