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Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 09/01/2014 *Starred Review* During the trench warfare in northern France in WWI, enemies were often separated by less than 100 feet. On Christmas Eve in the bitter winter of 1914, a virtual miracle occurred. Enemies on both sides stopped fighting and began to sing “Silent Night” while brightly lit Christmas trees dotted the tops of the trenches. On Christmas Day, enemy soldiers walked into the open ground between the trenches and shook hands. They buried their dead, and then the soldiers took photos of each other and exchanged biscuits and buttons and belts from their uniforms as souvenirs. Although the text is fictionalized and written as a poignant letter from a soldier, the author’s note explains the incident is well documented from letters and interviews. Illustrations in graphite, fluid acrylic washes, and gouache capture well the unlikely events and bring humanity to individual soldiers’ faces. Vivid details of the trenches protected by barbed wire and the soldiers’ uniforms alternate with the desolate landscape of mud, snow, and battered tree stumps. Meanwhile, glowing stars and sunlit skies look on impersonally on the day “war took a holiday.” - Copyright 2014 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 07/01/2014 Gr 3–5—A two-page explanation of the Christmas Day truce of 1914 precedes the fictionalized account of this unusual occasion. In a letter to his mother, a young English soldier describes the events of that unique day when, at the invitation of a German officer, the English Doughboys left their trenches and met their enemies in No Man's Land. The young man describes how they helped one another bury the dead; traded personal items such as hats, buttons, and buckles; shared their rations, and played football (soccer) with a biscuit tin. The day ends with the soldiers returning to their respective trenches. An angry English major soon appears on the scene, accusing his troops of being traitors. The book's title comes from the narrator's knowledge that his side will soon be ordered to fire on their new friends, but he figures that they will be shooting upward at the stars, rather than across at the Germans. The illustrations, in graphite, fluid acrylic washes, and gouache in dark blues, greens, oranges, and yellows are a perfect fit for the narrative. Most of the text appears in a typical serif font, but parts appear as a hand-printed letter. The title concludes with a well-written author's note. Few titles at this level convey the futility of World War I as well as this one does. A first choice.—Eldon Younce, Anthony Public Library, KS - Copyright 2014 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.