Friday Harbor, WA: Skyhook Press, 2014
The story of the Christmas Truce of 1914 is truly inspirational and has been told in many different ways over the years. First through newspaper articles, then in books, music, theater, and movies. Shepard’s retelling is in the form of a letter from a British soldier to his sister. The letter, although fictionalized, draws from actual letters from soldiers who participated, so let’s put it in with the non-fiction here, even if it is with fiction in the stacks.
Along with describing the Christmas celebration with German troops, our letter-writing soldier touches on the conditions in which the soldiers lived, and the hardships of life in the trenches. I addition, he decribes the somewhat mixed feelings with which the enemy soldiers are regarded. On one hand they hate this enemy that has forced them into war and killed so many friends; on the other hand, they feel they have a lot in common with the soldiers stuck in the opposing trenches, enduring the same miserable war. Shepard skillfully shows the determination of the British soldiers to do their duty and win the war, along with their capacity for empathy for their German counterparts.
Wendy Edelson’s illustrations are beautifully rendered water colors in brilliant blue, with the khaki, brown and grey of military uniforms. There are occasional brightly colored and warmly lit images to set apart our narrator’s thoughts of home. They are a perfect addition to the story.
While many school libraries already own some version of the 1914 truce story, this appealing mix of fact, historical fiction, and personal point of view would be a strong addition to an elementary holiday collection, especially since there is a readers theater script available . Plus, this book doubles as historical fiction the rest of the year.
Idaho Core Standards: Reading Standards for Literature: Grades 3-5, Standards 1-7, 9.
Dewey: E Interest Level: Grades 3-5
Awards and Reviews: Kirkus Reviews
Middle school readers might like: Truce: The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting by Jim Murphy
Older readers might enjoy: Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce by Stanley Weintraub
Fiction Pairings: And the Soldiers Sang by J. Patrick Lewis (elementary) & All Quiet on the Western Frontby Erich M. Remarque (YA)
Film: Lindahl, Carl H. et. al., Joyanti, Vikram. (2002, TV Movie). The Christmas Truce. England: Fulcrum TV, 2002. Distributed in United States by History Channel.